Transport insurers may be able to claim back fines paid on behalf of hauliers caught with illegal immigrants, following law firm Davies Lavery's success in the High Court last week.

Davies Lavery partner Kay Pysden persuaded the High Court to strike down the Home Office's £2,000 fine for hauliers caught bringing stowaway refugees into the UK.

Pysden said if the Home Office's appeal against the decision failed, hauliers and their insurers would be able to recover fines paid since the penalties were introduced in April 2000.

Pysden was acting on behalf of the TT Club, which insured Turkish haulier Barsan Global Lojistik.

Barsan's driver was fined £34,000 after being found with 17 stowaways, even though he had notified Customs and Excise and the illegal immigrants were arrested.

Pysden said the fines contravened Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention of Human Rights, and Articles 1, 28 and 49 of the European Convention Treaty.

She had several earlier TT Club cases knocked out before they reached court by putting in a notice of objection to the Home Office.

When the Home Office rejected the notice on this case, the TT Club decided to use it as a test case.

UK business director Mike Foster said the company would have had to restrict its cover if it had continued to cover fines at the same rate.

"It was in the interests of all our members to pursue this," he said.

However, Truckinsure project manager Dene Cridge said the scheme's insurance against stowaway fines would continue, regardless of the case's outcome.

"Some penalty schemes will remain in force even after the appeal," he said.

"We'll tailor our product to meet the outcome of the appeal."