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Conviction over small boat deaths in the Channel


A small boat pilot has been convicted of the manslaughter of four men who were attempting to reach the UK.

Ibrahima Bah was the pilot of the boat in the early hours of 14 December 2022, when according to witnesses on board, the boat ripped apart. Those on board reported that it had started taking on water shortly after they left the French coast, then they heard a sound, which they believed was the boat puncturing. The defendant continued to head into UK waters and one passenger heard him say “I will either take you there or kill you all.” 

First on the scene of the tragedy was a fishing dredger and the crew described the boat as being “completely unseaworthy” and looking as if the floor of it had collapsed. This was because, amongst other faults, the boat had no suitable deck boards, so its floor could not support the weight of passengers. 

The inflatable, which had no safety equipment such as flares or a radio, was made from low quality material and did not meet any minimum safety standards. It contained 43 migrants, 4 of whom drowned, but should not have had more than 20 people on board. 

Libby Clark from the CPS said: “Bah claimed that he had sailed boats before and, as a result, received free passage, whereas everyone else on the boat had paid thousands of Euros to make the tragic journey. 

“The boat he piloted was never designed to undertake a crossing in the world’s busiest shipping lane and would have been all but invisible to other ships. Navigation was carried out with just mobile phones, as there were no other navigational aids available. 

“There is no evidence to suggest that Bah had any training in piloting a boat like this or keeping people safe and, as the pilot, he assumed responsibility for ensuring the safety of his fellow passengers. 

“Any reasonable person would have recognised that by piloting such an ill-equipped and overloaded boat in such dangerous circumstances, there was an obvious risk of serious harm to the passengers. As a result of Bah’s actions, four men tragically lost their lives in the Channel that night. Our thoughts remain with their families.”

Notes to editors

  • Following a trial at Canterbury Crown Court, Ibrahima Bah was convicted of four charges of manslaughter and one of facilitating a breach of immigration law.  
  • Although four migrants died in the crossing and Bah was convicted of four charges of manslaughter, the exact number of people who died is not known, as it appears that at least one body was not recovered. 
  • There is uncertainty over the age of Bah, but it was determined by the court that he was over 18 years of age and the defendant has accepted the finding of the court.
  • The identities of three of the four men who drowned remain unknown. Enquiries are continuing to establish the identity of the other three individuals.
  • Libby Clark is a Specialist Prosecutor within the CPS South East Complex Casework Unit.  

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