A 56-YEAR-old Kinsale fisherman who paid an agency in Ghana to hire an illegal worker at his fishing business was told by a District Court judge that this process ‘took a degree of forethought and organisation’ and that he must have known his employee had no legal status in Ireland.
Judge James McNulty made the comment when dealing with the case of James Hurley of 86 Eltins Wood, Kinsale at a recent sitting of Bandon District Court.
Mr Hurley, who trades as James Hurley Fisheries Ltd, pleaded guilty to two charges – namely that on dates unknown, between April 12th 2014 and September 30th 2014, he did employ a non-national without a permit; and that he did organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into the State of an illegal immigrant.
Judge James McNulty directed that the illegal immigrant’s name should not be published.
Gda Immigration officer Kathleen O’Brien at Bandon Garda Station told the court that gardaí were first notified about the man in July 2016 when he entered the asylum process and they then found out that he had worked as a fisherman in Kinsale without a work permit. On January 12th last year, Gda O’ Brien said she recorded a statement from him and he told her that he had a 12-month contract to work as a deckhand on a boat and that his flights were organised by an agent in Ghana.
‘He didn’t have a visa for the UK, but he had a letter of employment from Mr Hurley and a seaman’s book and he was allowed through Heathrow Airport as he was flying on to Belfast. He thought he would then be collected by Mr Hurley there,’ said Gda O’Brien.
‘When he got to Belfast he had to sleep two nights on the street until Mr Hurley eventually made contact with him and he collected him off the bus from Belfast.’
Gda O’Brien said that the man left his employment in September 2014 after only a few months and that in 2015 he went to the Immigration Registration Office in Anglesea St in Cork and had told the officer that he had been working and produced a letter from Mr Hurley.
The officer there told him he could not work in Ireland and would have to leave the State.
Mr Hurley’s solicitor, David Browne, said his client came to gardaí by appointment and co-operated fully with the garda investigation.
Mr Browne said it was organised by another agency and that his client just facilitated it.
‘He facilitated the man’s entry into the State. At the time there were problems getting crews to work and there was no system in place in order for non-EU nationals to get a permit,’ said Mr Browne.
Gda O’Brien confirmed this and said that since 2016 there has been a change in this process where a special scheme for fishing permits was set up.
‘His intention was to regularise him and he admitted quite freely that he didn’t have permits when the man came in,’ said Mr Browne.
Mr Browne said his client is married with grown up kids and has no previous convictions.
‘He paid €2,500 to an agency with good faith and legitimacy.’
However, Judge McNulty interjected that it certainly wasn’t either ‘good faith’ or ‘legitimately.’
‘The charge is specific here in that he did organise or knowingly facilitate entry into the State of an illegal immigrant. It’s a serious offence and it required a degree of commitment and fore knowledge,’ said Judge McNulty.
Mr Browne said it was organised by a party not before the court, but his client was very forthcoming and produced all the documents to gardaí and he asked the court for leniency.
‘It’s been hanging over him for some time and it was a common difficulty for many people like my client until the laws were changed in 2016,’ said Mr Browne.
Judge McNulty said the court takes a serious view of these offences and while he acknowledged that the law was subsequently changed to facilitate the fishing industry, the fact remained that in 2014 this was illegal.
‘He corroborated with an agent in Ghana to organise for someone to travel to these shores through London and Belfast and it took a degree of forethought and organisation and he must have known his employee had no legal status here,’ said Judge McNulty.
Judge McNulty added that on the positive side, Mr Hurley has no previous convictions, was fully co-operative, did not contest the charges and has expressed remorse for what happened.
In respect of employing a non-national, Judge McNulty convicted and fined Mr Hurley €500 and for the more serious offence of organising or knowingly facilitating the entry into the State of an illegal immigrant, Judge McNulty convicted and fined Mr Hurley €750 and gave him 30 days to pay the fines in each case.
Recognisances in the event of an appeal were fixed in the defendant’s own bond of €1,500, with half of that to be provided in cash.