Kent

Sudanese Channel Tunnel walker admits obstruction charge

Abdul Rahman Haroun Image copyright PA
Image caption Abdul Rahman Haroun admitted causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage

A Sudanese man found walking through the Channel Tunnel to Britain from France has pleaded guilty to an obstruction charge.

Abdul Rahman Haroun, 40, who was found inside the tunnel last August, appeared before Canterbury Crown Court.

He was granted asylum in the UK after he was apprehended while walking near the end of the 31-mile (50km) tunnel.

Haroun was sentenced to nine months but walked free from court because of time already served.

Charged with "obstructing an engine or a carriage using a railway", Haroun changed his plea to guilty before his trial got under way.

'Persecuted by militia'

During proceedings the court heard Haroun's description of the speed of the trains passing by him. He said: "When I saw the trains coming I had to hold on to metal pieces on the wall of the tunnel."

His journey from Sudan saw him travel to Egypt and Libya before he crossed the Mediterranean to Italy. From there he made his way to Calais.

In an interview with the Home Office, Haroun described how he fled his home in 2004 after he was persecuted by the Janjaweed militia. He ended up in a camp at the Kari-Yari dam on the Sudan-Chad border.

After his arrest, he told police: "I came here for protection and to be safe."

The court heard Haroun jumped over the perimeter fence in Calais to access the tunnel and once inside began "walking sometimes on the right and sometimes on the left".

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said the security breach caused "significant disruption" for cross-Channel travellers and "significant economic consequence".

Defending, Richard Thomas said in mitigation: "This is not a case where there was a mass influx, or causing damage or assaulting tunnel staff.

"This is a case where the defendant was recognised in fact to be a refugee."

On Christmas Eve, the Home Office recognised him as a refugee and granted him asylum.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Haroun was recognised as a refugee and granted asylum

Judge Adele Williams acknowledged Haroun had been "in a state of desperation".

But she said: "The reason why the courts of the United Kingdom take such a serious view of this criminality is that those who enter in this way seek to evade the authorities, who can, therefore, have no check upon who is entering the country."

"Disrupting the operation of the Channel Tunnel in this way is a very serious offence which will almost always result in an immediate sentence of imprisonment."

'Rebuilding his life'

An earlier hearing saw an unsuccessful attempt to stay the court case as an abuse of process.

During that hearing, the judge said had Haroun been charged with documentary or deception offences, he would have had a defence available to him.

Caseworker Sadie Castle, of Kent Defence, said Haroun intended to appeal.

In a statement, she said: "Mr Haroun has pleaded guilty following a legal ruling by the judge. He obviously respects that ruling but will in due course be appealing his conviction at the Court of Appeal.

"His priority now is to focus on rebuilding his life in the UK."

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