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Haulier wins court appeal over land confiscation order

A confiscation order involving Co Monaghan land against the haulier convicted of killing 39 Vietnamese migrants has been quashed by the British Court of Appeal.

The court ruled that the prosecution had not proved that Ronan Hughes had a propriety interest in his family’s home at Leitrim Silverstream, Tyholland as it was built on land belonging to his widowed mother.

Hughes had been ordered to pay £182,078 (€213,494) to the families of the deceased migrants out of cash and property seized under the British Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard that migrants were charged €3,000 each to be smuggled into Britain.

The Court of Appeal heard that his available assets including money in his bank account and the value of his vehicles amounted to £55,265 (€64,800)

The original judge, the Recorder of London, granted a confiscation order for the remainder against the house that Hughes built in the middle of his parents’ farmland, and which is home to his wife and children.

This asset was judged to be worth €175,000 (£150,000) based on a 50% share of the house valued at €350,000 (£300,000).

However, Hughes and his mother Catherine appealed the order saying that the house is not saleable as Hughes would not surrender any part of the title to the land or grant right of way to anyone to access the house.

The Court of Appeal said Catherine Hughes had sworn an affidavit that her son only had permission to build his house and to reside there. There was no agreement that the land upon which the house was built would belong to him.

Lord Justice Holroyde, Lord Justice Snowden and Mr Justice Jeremy Baker ruled there was insufficient evidence that Hughes had a proprietorial interest in the land.

The case will now go back to the Crown Court for a fresh hearing.

Hughes is serving 20 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants who died from asphyxiation, carbon dioxide poisoning and hypothermia in the trailer of an articulated refrigerator lorry in Essex in October 2019.

Described as the ringleader of the people smuggling operation, Hughes was one of 11 people convicted in Britain along with another 18 in France after the deaths.

He lost a different Court of Appeal application in 2021 when he was refused permission to appeal against his sentence.

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