Devon people smugglers who got shipwrecked jailed

  • Watch Richard Lawrence's report

A people smuggler has been jailed after his yacht ran aground and police found eight migrants on board.

James Wisbey and his accomplice Faye Miles tried to bring seven men and one woman across the English Channel in rough conditions in the middle of winter.

But the boat got stranded off the coast, by Horse Cove near Teignmouth, and police found the migrants on board.

The people on board made desperate calls to emergency services from cramped conditions below deck as they feared they would not make it back to shore.

  • Moment migrant makes emergency call from the boat

When arrested Wisbey joked 'next time, I'll do it properly and not take any shortcuts'.

Wisbey, 55 and formerly of West Hoe, was the yacht's skipper and Miles, 38 and of no fixed address, was a member of the boat's crew.

They both appeared at Exeter Crown Court on Tuesday 6 July and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breach the Immigration Act in December last year.

Wisbey was sentenced for five years and four months and Miles to two years.

  • Footage from South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) shows how they tracked and found the yacht

Judge Timothy Rose described their actions as "appalling" and "unforgivable".

Judge Rose told Wisbey: "You placed your passengers in great danger. You did it for money and personal reward in cynical and very dangerous circumstances. Your motivation is purely financial. These were strangers and there was no humanitarian dimension to this whatsoever.

"You had an important and critical role in endangering the lives of yourself, Miles, and the hapless passengers."

James Wisbey and Faye Miles were found guilty of conspiracy to breach the Immigration Act. Credit: Exeter Crown Court

A third person, Indrit Barhani, aged 32 and an Albanian national of no fixed address, was arrested in London in February. He also pleaded guilty to the same offence and will be sentenced at a later date.

The migrants on board told officers they were initially told it would cost £2,000 to get them to the UK, but that then raised to £5,000 and then to £20,000 once they were on the boat.

They feared for their lives while sailing for more than 24 hours in a cramped, dark space below deck with no food or water.

Detective Inspector Adrian Hawkins, who led the investigation for the SW ROCU, said: "After being arrested, Wisbey joked to Miles saying 'next time, I'll do it properly and not take any shortcuts'. Hopefully our investigation will ensure there won't be a next time.

"As the yacht's skipper, he would have been well aware of the dangers of making that crossing in his small boat, particularly under the cover of darkness, in the middle of winter and in such rough conditions.

"There were no lifejackets and minimal safety equipment on board his boat".

He said the pair "prioritised the opportunity to make money" over people's safety.

"He was essentially a smuggler for hire and the migrants were nothing more than a money making commodity to them," he added.

James Le Grys, Crown Advocate from the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, said Wisbey's "dangerous" actions caused "significant fear" to those on board and could have ended in tragedy.

“These criminals put the lives of others at risk to make profit, something that has been reflected by the prison sentences imposed. We are committed to bringing those involved in organised immigration crime to justice," he said.