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Assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

What is the sentence for Assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons in 2024?

The offence of assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons is one that is happening increasingly often as more foreign nationals become interested in the lifestyle that the UK offers. It’s an immigration-related crime and covers the acts of helping people to either illegally enter the UK or to stay in the UK illegally.

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Many criminal acts can support an offence such as this; they include:

  • Forgery of documentation
  • Bogus certificates
  • Illegal employment
  • Sham marriages
  • Identity fraud
  • Visa and passport fraud

We have collected some of the questions that our clients ask about being sentenced for assisting illegal entry or harbouring person offences, along with their answers. We aim to provide you with support and information so that you can make an informed decision about your options regarding hiring a competent solicitor to defend you.

Have you been charged or arrested for assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons? 

Being charged, arrested or under investigation in connection with assisting illegal entry or harbouring person offences can be very frightening. There will be concern about what the outcome of the investigation might be. There is likely to be confusion, anxiety and fear about being given a prison sentence or confiscation order.

The UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) Office or the police may arrest you. No matter who is involved, it’s vital that you take the advice of a competent solicitor who has experience in this offence. Doing so can make all the difference between being handed a harsh sentence and getting deported and getting your case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.

Examples of what acts may be part of your assisting illegal entry or harbouring person case

Assisting illegal entry and harbouring person cases are a very complex area of law. Many different crimes, offences and wrongdoings can be involved. However, we have put together a few examples so that you can see for yourself what may be a factor in being arrested for this offence:

  • Smuggling persons into the UK in the back of a lorry
  • Knowing that somebody is in the country illegally, but giving them somewhere to live
  • Hiring somebody who is known to be in the country illegally, so that they can eat

What is the average sentence for assisting illegal entry or harbouring person offences?

If you are found guilty and convicted of assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons, you are likely to receive a prison sentence of at least 2 years. The UK government work hard to prevent illegal immigration and take this offence very seriously.

Sentences are worked out by judges using the guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council in addition to looking at the seriousness and circumstances of the crime.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons sentence?

When sentencing for assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

It will be examined as to whether you have taken part in a group activity or to see if you were forced into it. If you’ve used a false identity, or you have used the identity of others to access more funds, this will also be considered to decide your sentence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as mitigating factors which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the Court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was initially legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any severe medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents


Is it possible to reduce a sentence for assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons with a guilty plea?

Many changes have been made to the sentencing system of the UK in recent years. The purpose of amendments is to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of going through a needless trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure. However, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge, who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the 10 per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but before any witness evidence is heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the Court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of assisting illegal entry or harbouring person offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an assisting illegal entry or harbouring person offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

Besides, the Court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining enough evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term ‘victims’ surcharges’ can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

Several national databases hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to Court and you are convicted of assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something grim to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases. Note that the list below excludes serious violent, sexual and terrorist offences, which will never be spent.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence length+7 years Sentence length+3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 1 year but less than 4 years Sentence length+ 4 years Sentence length+2 years
Prison sentences of less than 1 year Sentence Length + 1 year sentence length+6 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Stuart Miller Solicitors have been defending assisting illegal entry or harbouring person cases for over thirty years. As a very complex area of law, many offences can overlap the crime.

Our approach is to explain the law to you in a way which is easy to understand. If necessary, we will take on the services of a translator so that you have an understanding of proceedings.

The solicitors of Stuart Miller are some of the brightest minds in the country and have a vast network of QCs, Barristers and expert witnesses who can work together on your case. Our lawyers are recognised for their premium quality defence work which sets the industry standard.

Have you been arrested or charged with assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons?

If you’ve been arrested or charged with the offence of assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons, you may be taken to the police station or a detention centre. The goal of the police will be to interview you on what has happened.

Before you attend this interview, you must take the legal advice of an experienced immigration solicitor who has expertise in this area of law. The faster you get a legal professional on your side to craft your defence strategy, the better outcome you’ll be able to achieve.

Without being accompanied by a lawyer, you won’t be in a position to demand to see all evidence held on you. You also won’t know what to say and what not to say which could be to the detriment of your case. What happens in the interview room is often a foresight into what the verdict of the matter is.

One thing is for sure; the police will pursue a search warrant from the Courts to search both your residential and work premises. The hunt will be for further evidence that the police can use to bolster their argument of your guilt. Your digital devices and communication tools will be examined for new evidence.

The services of a competent lawyer should contain the pressurising of police to conclude their case so that your life does not get put on hold indefinitely. You should get your devices back within a reasonable timeframe.

Want to discuss your case with an Assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons Solicitor?

You are invited to call us for a no-obligation and free thirty-minute consultation to discuss your case and concerns with us. We can answer any of your questions and provide you with information on what may happen in your case.

If arrested, we can also represent you at the police station for free. A police station is a dangerous place when it comes to being interviewed. The police will work hard to secure a conviction and train to get results. They may have evidence on you that you’re unaware of, and won’t know about unless you have a lawyer with you to request it.

It’s vital to take action as early as possible. You’ll get a far better outcome to your case and may even avoid a prison sentence.

Complete our contact form or call us on 0208 888 5225 to discuss your case in person or on the phone.

Get in touch with us now for assisting illegal entry or harbouring persons legal help.

(This page was last updated on November 28, 2023.)


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