Costa Concordia’s Francesco Schettino begins appeal against 16-year sentence

  •  Francesco Schettino captained Costa Concordia when it crashed in 2012 
  •  Given ten years for manslaughter, five for wreck, and one for leaving ship
  • 32 people died when ship hit rocks late at night off island of Gigilo, Italy
  • Lawyers tried to argue he did not abandon ship but fell into lifeboat

The skipper of the doomed cruiseliner Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, has begun his appeal against a 16 year jail sentence handed out last year.

The ship sank off the coast of the island of Giglio in Tuscany, Italy, on January 13, 2012 with the loss of 32 lives.

Schettino, 55, was dubbed 'Captain Coward' after it was revealed he had fled the ship before the 4,200 passengers were safely ashore.

The trial heard that Francesco Schettino (pictured) had taken his lover, dancer Domnica Cemortan, onto the bridge on the night of the accident. After the ship ran aground on rocks Schettino told her to 'save herself'

The trial heard that Francesco Schettino (pictured) had taken his lover, dancer Domnica Cemortan, onto the bridge on the night of the accident. After the ship ran aground on rocks Schettino told her to 'save herself'

In February last year he was given ten years for manslaughter, five for causing a shipwreck, one for abandoning ship, and a further month for giving false information to port authorities.

But as is the case with most Italian criminal cases he was not sent straight to jail but released pending his appeal. 

His legal team is now seeking to overturn his manslaughter conviction in an appeal which began on Thursday and will run through until the end of May.

The Costa Concordia ran aground on rocks off the coast of the island of Giglio but 32 people died after becoming trapped underwater. The ship was finally righted in September 2013 and was towed into Genoa harbour in July 2014, where it was slowly dismantled

The Costa Concordia ran aground on rocks off the coast of the island of Giglio but 32 people died after becoming trapped underwater. The ship was finally righted in September 2013 and was towed into Genoa harbour in July 2014, where it was slowly dismantled

During his trial Schettino was accused of showing off to his lover, Moldovan nightclub dancer Domnica Cemortan, when he steered the ship too close to the island.

The prosecution is also simultaneously appealing against the sentence, which they claim is too lenient and Schettino should have been given 26 years. 

Lawyers for survivors have also pointed the finger at the ship's owner, Costa Crociere, a subsidiary of the giant Carnival Corporation.

The company sidestepped potential criminal charges in 2013 by accepting partial responsibility and agreeing to pay a one million euro (£780,000) fine. 

Under Italy's legal system if Schettino loses his appeal he can still ask for the case to be looked at again by the Court of Cassation, the country's highest court.

The Naples-born captain resented the accusation of cowardice and unprofessionalism and claimed he had 'fallen' into a lifeboat as the Concordia rolled.

'I will fight for ever to prove that I did not abandon the Costa Concordia,' he said after his conviction.

It was dark when the ship hit rocks and began to tilt ominously to starboard. British dancer Joe Stribley said at the time: 'I saw that the ship was starting to sink and extreme panic set in and I thought that I was going to die'

It was dark when the ship hit rocks and began to tilt ominously to starboard. British dancer Joe Stribley said at the time: 'I saw that the ship was starting to sink and extreme panic set in and I thought that I was going to die'

The ship's Indonesian helmsman accepted a non-custodial sentence.

The trial heard he could have averted the disaster but did not understand an order given by Schettino to change course just before the collision.

Survivors of the disaster who had rejected Costa's initial compensation offer and become civil parties in the Schettino case were awarded an average of 30,000 euros (£23,000).

Their lawyer Massimiliano Gabrielli said: 'Justice has begun to be served, but there is something important missing from the dock; the society behind Schettino's acts.

'We want the question of responsibility to be widened, notably concerning Costa Crociere.' 

Schettino was also banned from public office for life and from working as a ship captain for five years.

Schettino (pictured) has always denied he was showing off and also that he abandoned the ship like a coward. He told the trial: 'I was number one on the ship after God'

Schettino (pictured) has always denied he was showing off and also that he abandoned the ship like a coward. He told the trial: 'I was number one on the ship after God'

 

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