A volunteer aid worker from Leeds has been given a suspended fine of 1,000 euros by a court in France for trying to smuggle an Afghan girl into Britain.

Former soldier Rob Lawrie feared being jailed for up to five years and had appealed for clemency after admitting trying to get four-year-old Bahar Ahmadi - known as Bru - into the UK hidden in his van in October.

Four-year-old Bahar Ahmadi was also in court for the sentencing Credit: ITV Yorkshire

In a packed hearing at the Tribunal Grande Instance in Boulogne, Mr Lawrie told how his business had failed, his marriage had broken down and he had tried to kill himself since his arrest.

He said he had acted stupidly in hiding Bru in a sleeping compartment but had simply been trying to take her from The Jungle refugee camp to family members already living legally near him in the UK.

Judge Louis-Benoit Betermiez ordered the father-of-four from Leeds to pay the fine for endangering the child's life but suspended it for five years as long as Mr Lawrie commits no further crime in France.

There was a huge round of applause from his supporters as he broke down in tears in court.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Mr Lawrie said he had had a heavy weight on his shoulders but now felt 'light':

"Compassion has been in the dock here. France has sent out a message that when compassion is done from the heart, not to make money, not to benefit from it but when it is done really from the heart, France has sent out a message that compassion will win."

Rob Lawrie

Mr Lawrie added that he would continue fighting to get help for child refugees.

"I'm going to have a few days off and then I'm going to raise the profile (of refugees) even more because we cannot simply leave these children. We need to get these children now and into our education system because these guys are going to be doctors and lawyers and teachers if we get them now and educate them correctly. Or we can leave them in The Jungle to rot and die of cold."

Rob Lawrie