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The verdicts in the first five trials following the Costa Concordia disaster have been delivered. Five men have been convicted and given prison sentences ranging from eighteen months to two years ten months. The five were the 1st and 3rd officers; the cabin services director; the helmsman; and a shore-based  director of the accompany. I believe the the reasons for the convictions were that the three men on the bridge (the two officers and the helmsman) were held to have contributed, either by their silence (the officers) or by making mistakes (the helmsman), to the sequence of catastrophic events that caused the sinking. The cabin services director had the responsibility of announcing the emergency over the ship’s loudspeakers and giving orders to the crew (most of whom would be cabin services and restaurant staff, not ‘seamen’) to perform a ship evacuation and assist the passengers, and he has been held to bear criminal responsibility in not doing those things properly; and the fifth man, the shore-based director, was convicted for failures in the performance of the company’s wider disaster response on the night.

Press reports are making it clear, however, that none of these men are likely to serve much time in jail, if any. Their convictions have been secured quickly because they have each cooperated fully with the authorities; they have, if you like, made successful plea-bargains. The reason for this is that the main event, the conclusion of Captain Schettino’s trial, has not yet happened. It seems that he will carry the primary responsibility for the disaster, through the actions he took before, during and after the grounding. That seems reasonable to me: a ship’s captain has enormous powers, but they are are given to him (or her) so that they they can shoulder the equally enormous responsibilities that they bear. The investigation report (on which I blogged previously) makes it crystal clear that Captain Schettino failed to carry his responsibilities that night.

Captain Schettino’s trial is due to resume on 23 September.

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