The High Court has ruled that a lorry driver wanted for his alleged role in transporting a refrigerated trailer in which 39 migrants were found dead in Essex last October can be extradited to the UK.
Eamon Harrison, from Mayobridge in Co Down, is being sought by the British authorities to face 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and conspiracy to commit human trafficking under the UK's Modern Slavery Act.
The 23-year-old is alleged to have delivered the trailer to a Belgian port before its onward journey to Britain, where it was collected from the Port of Purfleet in Essex by Maurice Robinson from Craigavon, Co Armagh.
Mr Robinson was arrested by Essex Police at the scene and has pleaded guilty in the UK to assisting illegal immigration.
The bodies of the 31 men and eight women were found when the trailer was opened a short distance away at a nearby industrial park.
In the High Court today, Mr Justice Donald Binchy approved the extradition of Mr Harrison.
He said there was nothing in legislation that precluded his surrender and he had considered making the extradition order today because it would not take effect for 15 days.
During the course of the extradition hearings, Senior Counsel Ronan Kennedy said that Mr Harrison and another individual were "recruited" by another man.
One of the drivers, he said, was being paid €1,000 per trafficked person and on one occasion was paid €20,000.
Eamon Harrison, he contended, "knew" the migrants "were in the trailer" and that they had been locked into a sealed container unaccompanied for nine hours on a sea crossing that resulted in their unfortunate deaths.
The High Court also heard that recordings found on mobile phones belonging to the migrants suggest some were still alive after entering UK territorial water.
The court also heard that Mr Harrison had been stopped in May 2018 driving a trailer containing 18 migrants.
Defence barrister Tony McGillicuddy asked the judge not to make the order today so as to allow time for Mr Harrison to consider an appeal.
Senior Counsel Ronan Kennedy said the State was not opposing the application.
Mr Justice Binchy agreed not to make the order today. He said the judgment was 50 pages long and time would be needed to consider it.
He remanded Mr Harrison in custody to appear again at the High Court on Tuesday 4 February.