MIGRANT smugglers who brought people into the country via East Cowes Marina have been sentenced to jail terms at the Isle of Wight Crown Court today.

Self-styled "Lord" Stephen Redhead, 47, of Horsebridge Hill, Newport, was given five years behind bars for his role.

He and Christopher Barber, 55, of Landguard Road, Shanklin, were found guilty by a unanimous jury of conspiring to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by a non EU person, contrary to the Immigration Act.

Barber was jailed for three years, and co-accused Jean Pierre Labelle sentenced to eight years in jail.

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Their convictions followed a seven day trial at the Portsmouth court earlier this month.

Scroll down for CCTV footage shown in court

Jean Pierre Labelle, 45, of Ashey Road, Ryde, admitted the same charge at Portsmouth Crown Court back in February.

Illegal migrant smuggling to the Isle of Wight 

The court heard how, on March 17, 2020, Labelle travelled to Cherbourg, France, on board a 70ft ketch yacht named Anore with Redhead and Barber.

They returned to East Cowes Marina two days later with ten additional people — suspected to have been migrants entering the UK illegally.

CCTV was examined showing the migrants alighting the vessel and a report was made to Hampshire Constabulary following the incident, before being passed to officers from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) to investigate.

The migrants are believed to have been in the UK but have not been traced due to the incident being retrospectively reported.

How Lord Redhead, Labelle and Barber were caught 

Between June 26 and 27, 2020, Labelle organised another journey using a small boat named Freedom.

On this occasion, he was unsuccessful and the vessel used was intercepted after a joint operation with SEROCU, the National Crime Agency and French authorities.

Six Albanian nationals were found on board along with two criminal associates who were subsequently prosecuted in France.

Checks established that the Albanian nationals did not have the necessary pre-entry clearance needed to enter the UK.

Labelle, Redhead and Barber were charged with the offence on May 25, last year.

What was said in the Isle of Wight Crown Court today?

Patrick Harte, for Labelle, said he denied a leading role and was pressurised by someone higher than him in the criminal chain and given orders. Any money he earned was knocked off a debt he owed.

He said he had previously had successful, legitimate businesses and a happy family life, all now in ruins.

Due to his incarceration he had missed his eldest daughter’s wedding, the birth of his youngest child and will miss the birth of his first grandchild.

Edward Hollinsworth, for Redhead, said he was not involved in an organisational role and there was no evidence he was involved in the loading or disembarking of people.

He said: “His character is wholly different to the level of criminality he’s become involved in. Others with foothold in that world have brought him in with it.”
He said there was a ‘degree of naivety’ in his thinking it was a ‘jolly over to France’.

Edmund Blackman, for Barber, said when he left the Island he had no idea what the purpose of the trip was, until he was put under pressure and acquiesced.

He said as a father of an eight-year-old he would suffer being separated from her while in prison.

What did the judge say to Labelle, Redhead and Barber?

Judge Tim Mousley said Labelle was the main co-ordinator of the two trips to France, in a leading role.

Redhead was recruited, effectively as a skipper, and Barber was recruited by Redhead to help onboard.

The jury found that all three men knew exactly what was going on.

Judge Mousley said: “It was organised crime on a large scale and would have continued had it not been detected.”

What were the three migrants smugglers sentenced to at the Isle of Wight Crown Court?

Labelle was sentenced to eight years in custody, Redhead to five years, and Barber to three years.

Video footage showing the migrant smugglers bringing people into East Cowes