Court rejects people smuggler s appeal
Court upholds 14-year sentence given to people smuggler Ali Khorram Heydarkhani, who organised the voyage which ended with the loss of 50 lives. Picture: Supplied

A convicted people smuggler jailed for 14 years has lost an appeal against the sentence he was handed for recklessly endangering asylum-seekers' lives, including those aboard the vessel which crashed into Christmas Island, claiming 50 lives.

Ali Khorram Heydarkhani was sentenced to a total of 14 years' imprisonment in October 2012 after he pleaded guilty to four people-smuggling charges, including two counts of aggravated people-smuggling where his conduct recklessly placed the lives of passengers at risk.

Heydarkhani appealed against his sentence, with his appeal lawyer Simon Watters arguing the sentence was manifestly excessive and the sentencing judge "erred in categorising the offending as falling within the worst category".

Asylum seekers paid Heydarkhani tens of thousands of dollars to come to Australia and he took passports and mobile phones from them to prevent authorities from tracking him.

One of the charges related to the vessel which smashed into rocks off Christmas Island in December 2010 where 50 men, women and children died.

Shortly after the Christmas Island tragedy, Heydarkhani organised another boat, named SIEV 226, of asylum-seekers to travel to Australia. That boat was "nearly unmanageable", termite and ant infested and carried only 80 life jackets in poor condition.

In an unanimous decision today, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed Heydarkhani's appeal against his 14-year prison sentence.

Court of Appeal President Justice Carmel McLure said the seriousness of Heydarkhani's offending was aggravated and elevated because he committed a people smuggling offence shortly after the Christmas Island tragedy and using another boat "grossly unfit for the purpose".

"The depth of the appellant's contempt for the vulnerability and safety of the people whom he exploited is truly made manifest by his conduct (involving SIEV 226)," Justice McLure said.

She said it was appropriate the sentence attracted the highest penalty.

The West Australian

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