1. ITV Report

Aid worker who tried to smuggle Afghan girl from Calais 'Jungle' camp avoids jail

An aid worker from Leeds who tried to smuggle an Afghan girl into the UK from the Calais 'Jungle' camp has been spared a jail sentence.

Rob Lawrie (L) with four-year-old Bahar during a press conference before today's hearing. Credit: ITV News

Former soldier and father-of-four Rob Lawrie has been handed a €1000 fine suspended sentence by a magistrates judge in the French city of Boulogne.

He had admitted to a charge of aiding illegal immigration after he tried to smuggle four-year-old Bahar Ahmadi out of the Calais refugee 'Jungle' camp at the request of her father.

Today, Mr Lawrie told magistrates that he had acted stupidly and irrationally in hiding Bahar - known as Bru - in a sleeping compartment in his van.

He said he had crossed between France and the UK many times previously while helping refugees and had refused her father's pleas to take her to Britain many times.

But via an interpreter he told the judge: "Each time I saw the little girl and her father in the work that I was doing. That night I just could not leave her there any more. It was wrong. It was the most stupid conceived plan."

Mr Lawrie rejected the idea that he was trafficking for money, telling the judge: "Her father is a farmer from Afghanistan. He doesn't have any money whatsoever.

"I have not only raised many thousands of pounds - I have put thousands of my own money into this. There is no way I would ever do this for money.

"She is four years old with a family who live near me and I had bonded with them. She was sleeping in a tent and she is a very clever girl."

Hours before the hearing Mr Lawrie appeared at a press conference carrying Bru.

Speaking in a small Sunday schoolroom bursting with media representatives from across the world, he explained his actions that led to taking the little girl. "I looked can you leave that? There was no rational thought."

Answering questions about how he has been perceived in the media "people call it smuggling, others have said I was a trafficker. I was rescuing her."

"I will know whether it was worth it when I contemplate it behind bars".

Mr Lawrie, a former army physical training instructor was helping build shelters in the Calais 'Jungle' camp when he got to know Bru - and her father asked him to take her to family members living in Leeds.

But he was caught when British sniffer dogs at the Calais border found two Eritrean men who, unbeknown to him, had stowed in the back of his van.

French police arrested him over the stowaways and it was only when he was handcuffed in custody that he had to tell the authorities to go back to the van and look for Bru.

Thousands of people had signed a petition urging Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to ask the French authorities for clemency. Mr Lawrie and supporters delivered the petition to the Foreign Office last week.

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