Strike halts 700-witness trial of Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino

He faces charges of multiple manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing shipwreck off Giglio island

Almost 18 months after he crashed a luxury liner on rocks off an Italian island with the death of 32 people, the criminal trial of the Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino finally began today.

But Italy's glacially slow legal system had another trick to play, as a lawyers' strike scuppered proceedings - and forced the judge to make an instant adjournment.

Proceedings at the makeshift theatre-court room in Grosseto, which is needed to house the hundreds of witnesses, lawyers and journalists, will start in earnest in eight days' time.

Court-appointed experts have already told preliminary hearings that the crew and vessel's owner Costa Cruises committed blunders and safety breaches that contributed to the disaster near the shore of the Island of Giglio on 13 January 2012.

But despite this, only the ship's captain Francesco Schettino has been ordered to stand trial.

Lawyers for the national consumer group Codacons, which is leading a class action against Costa Cruises, criticised legal proceedings, after a judge allowed the company a plea bargain in April in which saw the cruise ship operator pay a €1 million fine to limit its corporate criminal responsibility.

The plea bargain was granted before criminal indictments, including one for Costa Cruises' marine operations director Roberto Ferrarini, were even issued. Mr Ferrarini and four other suspects were also allowed plea bargains, and now only Mr Schettino will be tried. But with over 700 witnesses, proceedings might take years.

Mr Schettino faces to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before his passengers.

Outside the court, Mr Schettino's lawyer Domenico Pepe repeated his client's assertion that his premature departure from the scene of the accident occurred because he fell into a life boat.

Meanwhile, work is ongoing to remove the huge wreck from Giglio's shoreline.

Cranes, tugs, platforms and a ship that houses what looks like a giant stack of Portakabins (furthest right) are all dwarfed by the wreckage of the Costa Concordia, the 290m cruise ship that sank in January 2012 on the coast of Giglio, off the Italian coast of Tuscany The wreckage of the Costa Concordia, the 290m cruise ship that sank in January 2012 on the coast of Giglio (Photo: Martin King)
 

A view from Porto on the Tuscan island of Giglio shows how close the wreckage of the Costa Concordia is to the port A view from Porto on the Tuscan island of Giglio shows how close the wreckage of the Costa Concordia is to the port (Photo: Martin King)

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor