Officers found guilty over Costa Concordia shipwreck

AN Italian court has handed five officers from the Costa Concordia cruise ship jail sentences for their role in the disaster in which 32 people died, leaving Captain Francesco Schettino as the only person still on trial.

The court agreed to plea bargains for the five, who received sentences of between 18 months and two years, ten months for charges of multiple manslaughter, negligence and shipwreck, in exchange for pleading guilty and avoiding a lengthy trial.

They are unlikely to go to jail as the sentences under two years are suspended, and the longer sentences may be appealed or replaced with community service, judicial sources said.

Mr Schettino is facing charges of multiple manslaughter for abandoning the Costa Crociere vessel when passengers were still on board, after the ship capsized of the island of Giglio in 2012. The shipwreck still remains partially submerged.

Mr Schettino could be handed up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before his passengers, after crashing the vessel into rocks close to the shore of Giglio, an island off the Tuscan coast, in 2012.

As the trial began following a lawyers' strike last week, the chances of Mr Schettino's plea bargain - which asks that he serve three years and five months - being accepted appeared remote. Prosecutors have already rejected a previous deal with the 52-year-old.

Mr Schettino's case will resume on 23 September.