Man found guilty after four migrants drowned trying to cross English Channel in small boat

Ibrahima Bah, sketched at a previous hearing.

A man who piloted an “unseaworthy” boat where four passengers drowned in the English Channel has been found guilty of manslaughter.

Ibrahima Bah, from Senegal and over 18, was charged with four counts of manslaughter and one count of piloting to facilitate illegal entry into the UK from France on 14 December 2022.

A multi-agency search and rescue operation was launched off the Kent coast, involving the Royal Navy, French Navy, Coastguard, RNLI lifeboats, ambulance service and police after the boat got into difficulty.

During the operation, 39 people were brought to shore in the port of Dover, but four other people were pronounced dead.

A jury at Canterbury Crown Court found Bah guilty of facilitating illegal entry to UK and guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

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During the trial, jurors were told the home-built, low-quality inflatable should have had no more than 20 people on board but, in fact, tried to carry at least 43 people across the English Channel that night.

While the majority of travellers paid thousands of euros to smugglers for a spot in the overcrowded vessel, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC said it appears Bah did not pay for his journey because he piloted the dingy, therefore owing his fellow passengers a "duty of care".

The court heard that it was Bah's dream to come to the UK to claim asylum, and he had left Senegal in 2019.

He told police, when he arrived in the UK, that he had travelled from Senegal to Mali, Algeria and then Libya, before going by boat to Italy using smugglers.

He had previously worked on fishing boats in Senegal, sometimes helping with fishing and steering the boat, and assisted in piloting the boat from Libya to Italy.

Libby Clark, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Bah claimed that he had sailed boats before and, as a result, received free passage, whereas everyone else on the boat had paid thousands of euros to make the tragic journey.

"The boat he piloted was never designed to undertake a crossing in the world's busiest shipping lane and would have been all but invisible to other ships.

"Navigation was carried out with just mobile phones as there were no other navigational aids available.

"There is no evidence to suggest that Bah had any training in piloting a boat like this or keeping people safe and, as the pilot, he assumed responsibility for ensuring the safety of his fellow passengers.

"Any reasonable person would have recognised that by piloting such an ill-equipped and overloaded boat in such dangerous circumstances, there was an obvious risk of serious harm to the passengers.

"As a result of Bah's actions, four men tragically lost their lives in the Channel that night. Our thoughts remain with their families."

Bah will be sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday February 23.

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