Costa Concordia Captain jailed for 16 years
The former captain of the Costa Concordia has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, after he was found guilty of multiple charges of manslaughter.
THE court in Grosseto, Italy, said Francesco Schettino, 54, was responsible for the deaths of 32 people after the ship smashed into the rocks off Giglio island in January 2012.
The ex-captain faced charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, delaying the evacuation of passengers and crew from the vessel and abandoning ship before all 4,229 passengers and crew had been rescued.
Schettino was not present when Judge Giovanni Puliatti read out the verdict, but told the court today that he had been exposed to a media "meatgrinder" which had "put the entire responsibility for this incident on to me, with no respect for the truth."
He had said earlier that he was "a few hours from a verdict that should have involved an entire organisation and instead sees me as the only defendant."
''My head was sacrificed to serve economic interests," he claimed.
Officials investigating the disaster were highly critical of his conduct, and accused him of sailing the 290 metre-long vessel too close to shore of the Tuscan island of Giglio - tearing a hole as it struck rocks.
More than 4,000 passengers and crew were evacuated from the vessel that night.
Prosecutors had argued that Schettino was a "reckless idiot" and should be sentenced to 26 years in prison, after he admitted some responsibility for the incident, but denied he was responsible for the deaths that occurred during the evacuation.
Schettino, who appeared to struggling with emotions at times during the trial, rejected accusations from prosecutors that he had shown no sense of responsibility or compassion for the victims, saying "grief should not be put on show to make a point."
His defence team argued he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the ship close to the island as it sank, and say the sentence being sought by prosecutors exceeds that handed to mafia killers.
"I believe and hope that the court will be able to establish the fact that the deaths happened after the impact," his lawyer Domenico Pepe told reporters.
Following the crash, the ship lay abandoned on its side for two-and-a-half years, before it was towed away last year in the most expensive maritime wreck recovery in history. The last body was not recovered until last year.
The ship's owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, has already paid a €1 million euro (AUD$1.46m) fine and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.
Costa Cruises has offered passengers who suffered no injury €11,000 (AUD$16,000) in compensation, but there are those who agree with Schettino that he should not be the only one held to account.
Giuliano Leuzzi, a lawyer representing consumer organisation Codacons, a civil party in the case, said: "We need to establish the real responsibilities and each party should take responsibility for their share."