Europe

Costa Concordia captain requests new plea bargain

  • 17 July 2013
  • From the section Europe
Francesco Schettino (17 July 2013)
Image caption Captain Francesco Schettino has argued that his manoeuvring of the ship closer to shore helped save lives

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the shipwrecked Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, has requested a new plea bargain after an earlier try failed.

His lawyers said he offered to serve three years and five months in jail in exchange for a ruling that he was only partially responsible for the disaster.

Thirty-two people died when the ship hit rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012.

Capt Schettino is on trial for multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.

He denies the charges, and his defence said it intended to show that "no single person" was to blame for the incident.

The captain could face a maximum of 20 years in jail if found guilty.

The trial opened on 9 July but was adjourned because of a nationwide lawyers' strike.

'A formality'

Capt Schettino's defence team had already failed to secure a plea-bargaining deal during pre-trial hearings in May.

On Wednesday, one of his lawyers, Donato Laino, said he held little hope that judges would accept their proposal this time. The bid was essentially "a formality since the prosecution will tell us 'no'", he said.

Capt Schettino is accused of steering the luxury liner too fast and too close to the shore, and of leaving the ship before all of the 4,229 passengers and crew were taken off.

But the captain has argued that his manoeuvring of the ship closer to shore saved lives.

Prosecutors say he was performing a risky night-time sail-past salute to people on the tiny island of Giglio.

The ship was holed by rocks on the left-hand side, causing it to list, as passengers dined on the first night of the cruise.

A chaotic and disorganised evacuation ensued. By the time the order to evacuate came, the Costa Concordia was listing so far to one side that many lifeboats could not be used.

The liner still lies partially submerged off the coast of Giglio while salvage crews work to refloat it.

The trial is being heard in Grosseto, a city 90 miles (145km) north-west of Rome which is nearest to the site of the wreck. The proceedings are taking place in the city's theatre, rather than its small courthouse.

Some 350 witnesses could be called in the case.

In addition to the hundreds of survivors seeking compensation, the local authorities in Giglio are hoping for at least 80m euros (£68m; $105m) to make up for alleged lost revenue and the eyesore that has been on its shoreline.