A Northern Irish man is facing multiple counts of manslaughter after UK authorities alleged that he delivered the trailer, in which 39 migrants were found dead last week, to a Belgian port before its onward journey to Britain.
Eamon Harrison (aged 22) from Mayobridge, Co Down, was arrested following the endorsement of a European Arrest Warrant and appeared before Mr Justice Donald Binchy in the High Court this morning.
It follows the endorsement of a European Arrest Warrant for Mr Harrison yesterday.
The court heard that Mr Harrison was arrested in the holdings cells of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Parkgate Street, Dublin 2, this morning at 10.15am.
Sergeant Jim Kirwan gave evidence of his arrest and told the court that there are 41 offences in the warrant for Mr Harrison.
They include 39 manslaughter charges, conspiracy to commit a human trafficking under section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971.
Mr Harrison, who was wearing glasses, appeared in court wearing a grey t-shirt, grey tracksuit bottoms and runners.
Sgt Kirwan told the court that, after he arrested Mr Harrison in the holding cells, he asked the respondent "if he knew what this was about", to which Mr Harrison replied: “Yes”.
Outlining the offences facing Mr Harrison, Sgt Kirwan read from the warrant. He said: “The case against Eamon Harrison relates to the trafficking and subsequent deaths of 39 people within an artic trailer unit.
“At 1.38am on Wednesday, 23rd of October 2019, Essex Police received a call from the East of England Ambulance Service stating they were getting reports of 25 illegal immigrants not breathing within a lorry in the area of Eastern Avenue, Waterglade Industrial, West Thurrock, Essex.
“Police attended the scene. The driver of the lorry was standing at the back of the trailer. He was later identified as Maurice Robinson.
“Inside the trailer was a total of 39 people, 8 females and 31 males who were all deceased.
“Enquiries revealed that the trailer unit had been delivered by a lorry to Zeebrugge, Belgium before being transported to the UK where it was collected by Maurice Robinson from the Port of Purfleet, Essex.
“On 22nd of October 2019, Eamon Harrison had been identified as the driver of the lorry which was used to deliver the trailer unit to the port in Zeebrugge.
“CCTV, taken several hours before at a truck stop in Veurne, Belgium shows Eamon Harrison to be the driver of the lorry.
“That lorry deposited the trailer unit at Zeebrugge for its onward transmission to Purfleet, Essex.
“A shipping notice provided at Zeebrugge when the tractor unit arrived at the gate was signed in the name ‘Eamonn Harrison’.
“Eamon Harrison travelled back to Ireland in the lorry via a ferry from Cherbourg, France.”
After Sgt Kirwan gave evidence of Mr Harrison’s arrest, Mr Justice Binchy said he was satisfied that the Mr Harrison in the court was the same Mr Harrison furnished in the EAW.
Elva Duffy BL, for the State, told the court that Mr Harrison is currently on remand in custody over a domestic matter that will be before Cloverhill District Court next Thursday.
Tony McGillicuddy BL, instructed by Paul Tiernan Solicitors, appeared on behalf of Mr Harrison.
He told the judge that he was only able to take limited instructions today and asked for the matter to be put forward for Monday, November 11th.
Counsel also told the judge he did not think it feasible for Mr Harrison and his legal team to respond any earlier than November 11th, given the gravity of the offences.
Counsel also indicated that a bail application may be lodged.
Mr Justice Binchy said there was no mention of Mr Harrison facing trial in this jurisdiction and put it to Mr McGillicuddy that this is a normal application for a surrender.
Mr McGillicuddy said, on looking at the warrant, he could see a "complexity" in the warrant "even at this stage".
He also said: “What is outlined in the warrant itself, it appears any allegations against Eamon Harrison did not occur in the issuing state.”
He said the warrant may give rise to a potential Section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 "coming into play".
The barrister said this is a “difficult section” of the act and added that it had to be considered in the case of Ian Bailey whose extradition to France was refused.
The section, which states that a person cannot be surrendered if the offence in the arrest warrant was committed in a place other than the issuing state, was found to be an "absolute bar" to the extradition of Mr Bailey.
Following on from this, Mr Justice Binchy put the case in for mention on Monday, November 11th and set a hearing date of Thursday, November 21st.
Mr Justice Binchy informed Mr Harrison of his rights and told him that he is entitled to voluntarily surrender himself to the UK authorities between now and the hearing date.