A BLACKWOOD man, who attempted to smuggle five illegal migrants, including three children aged between two and six, into the UK, has been jailed for three years.

On the morning of Thursday, December 29 of last year, Border Force officers at Dover’s Eastern Docks selected a British-registered Ford van for initial screening.

The van tried to exit the docks without stopping but barriers were lowered halting its progress.

After questioning the driver, who was identified as Sam Vaughan, 30, of Pen-Llwyn Avenue, Pontllanfraith, Blackwood, officers searched the van and found a false wall at the rear.

Concealed within the purpose built hide officers discovered the five illegal migrants.

Vaughan was arrested and the investigation passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation officers.

Paul Morgan, the director of Border Force south east and Europe said: “The distress that must have been caused to this family confined in this small space, with no light and very little access to air, is hard to contemplate.

“Vaughan’s actions – subjecting people to such conditions, knowing the danger he was were putting them in – were abhorrent.

“Border Force officers will continue to work with law enforcement colleagues to ensure that people smugglers and traffickers, who have no concern for those whose lives they so often put at risk, face the consequences of their crimes.”

During subsequent interviews Vaughan claimed that he had wanted to purchase a van.

He said that a man, whose name he did not know, offered him a test drive of the Ford if Vaughan would go to France to buy beer for him.

He said he had collected the vehicle two days prior to the incident, and that it had contained a sat. nav., a mobile phone and £300 for “expenses”.

He then drove from Wales and on arrival in France received a text message with an address in Belgium of where to collect the beer.

While staying in bed and breakfast accommodation in Belgium he received another text message to say the man with the beer had arrived.

The individual he found waiting asked Vaughan to give him, a woman and three children a lift.

Vaughan agreed and during the journey they stopped at a service station where Vaughan left the van to get a hot drink.

When he returned, he said the five people had gone. He had not looked for them but had made his way direct to Calais.

Vaughan confirmed that the man who had asked for a lift was the same person found in the concealment.

He maintained he had not known about the hide but was unable to explain how the group had managed to lock themselves inside when it was fastened with bolts on the outside.

Forensic phone evidence showed Vaughan receiving and sending a number of messages, including details of his bank account and sort code numbers, from an unregistered pre-paid mobile.

Further investigation showed two deposits were made into Vaughan’s back account on December 29.

Vaughan was charged with assisting unlawful immigration into the UK.

He was found guilty by a jury at Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday, 22 March.

Assistant Director David Fairclough, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said: “This was a callous attempt on Vaughan’s part to profit from the vile trade of people smuggling. It is thanks to the expertise of my colleagues in Border Force that it was prevented.

“I hope this case sends a clear message to anyone tempted to get involved with this kind of criminality – you will be caught and brought before the courts.

“We work closely with Border Force colleagues to rigorously investigate allegations of immigration related criminality.”

The family group, who all claimed to be from Iraq, were passed to immigration officials. Their cases are being dealt with in line with the immigration rules.

Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit crimestoppers-uk.org.