In Brief

Costa Concordia captain wants to cut deal on his sentence

Francesco Schettino faces 20 years if convicted, but says he'll plead guilty for a three-year term

THE CAPTAIN accused of causing the deaths of 32 people after his cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, ran aground on the Italian coast last year wants to cut a deal over his sentence.

As his trial for manslaughter resumed in central Italy today, Francesco Schettino's lawyers said the 52-year-old was ready to plead guilty in return for a prison sentence of three years and five months, Sky News reports. Given that Schettino faces more than 20 years in jail if convicted at a full trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster and injuring 150 of his passengers, the plea bargain has only a slim chance of being accepted, experts say.

The trial is being held in the town of Grosseto, not far from where the Concordia tore open its hull on 13 January last year when it struck a jagged rock near the island of Giglio. The hearing began on 9 July, but was postponed until today due to a strike by lawyers.

Speaking outside the court today, Schettino's lawyer said his client had "never shied away from his responsibilities". But although he was the captain of the Concordia at the time of the disaster "it is not right to blame him for responsibilities that he did not have".

Schettino has been pilloried in the press over accusations he fled the ship before all 4,200 passengers and crew had been rescued. He describes himself as an innocent scapegoat and his lawyers intend to argue that he didn't abandon ship, but was thrown overboard as the vessel began to list to one side.

The captain's lawyers will also argue he managed to avert an even worse disaster by steering the 290-metre ship into shallow waters after its hull was ruptured.

CNN says the case is complicated because numerous civil suits are running in tandem with the criminal prosecution. As a result, the hearing could last for a year or more.

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