A mother caught trying to smuggle four illegal immigrants into the country for cash told officials she had no idea they were there when she was caught.
Crystal Mosley, 27, faked surprise when Border Control officials searched the rented camper van she was driving and found the passengers – three from Vietnam and one from China – hiding inside.
Blonde-haired Mosley and her partner Daniel Hassard, 25, agreed to make the trip from France to Kent for £3,000 to pay off a drug debt.
The couple, from Southbourne Road, Marton, were told they faced jail sentences after admitting a charge of people smuggling.
But after painter and decorator Hassard claimed it was his idea, Mosley’s 15-month sentence was suspended for two years so she could care for her nine-year-old boy.
Hassard was jailed for 15 months and as he was led away to prison, he kissed his lover goodbye in the dock at Canterbury Crown Court.
Prosecutor Andrew Forsyth said the van was stopped by Border Patrol officers at Coquelles at 1.30am on August 22 last year.
Mosley was driving and she said they had left the UK the previous day claiming they were looking at campsites in France.
Officers ordered the back of the van to be opened and discovered one man crouched on the floor with two more on bunks and a fourth hiding elsewhere.
Mosley then feigned shock, telling officials: “I didn’t know they were there.”
The prosecutor said, after being interviewed, she eventually “broke down and confessed” – claiming she and Hassard had run up debts using cocaine.
He added: “She said that they owed money to dealers but both of them had lost employment shortly before making the trip.
“Mosley said they had been offered between £2,000 and £3,000 to bring in people into the country.”
She said they had been supplied with a rented camper van and given £200 to buy tickets and fuel for the journey.
Mr Forsyth said Hassard told officers they had been promised £3,000 and had planned to use some of the money to pay off debts, buy clothes and go on a holiday.
“He confirmed that there had been no threats made to them to do the trip,” he added.
Hassard’s lawyer, Kerry Waitt, told the court: “Can I say this at the outset and I am specifically instructed to say that had it not been for my client and his encouragement and inveiglement, his co-accused would not be sitting in the dock next to him.
“He takes full responsibility for her position today. He is a young man who foolishly had run up debts to people who it is not comfortable to owe money to. It was made clear in graphic detail what would happen if the money (to pay off the debts) was not found.”
Miss Waitt said the couple had been in a relationship for three years and Hassard was “very much the father figure” to Mosley’s son.
Christopher Wray, for Mosley, said the mum was now “drug free” and had changed address to keep away from former friends involved in the drugs scene.
Mosley was also ordered to remain at her home between 7pm and 7am for the next four months and made the subject of a supervision order.
David Fairclough from Home Office Criminal Investigations said: “Those involved in people smuggling pray on the desperation of others in order to line their own pockets and are a major factor in illegal immigration to the UK.
“This case sends a strong message to those who think they can cheat the system.”