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11 years imprisonment for 'spectacular recklessness'

A Sunderland man who set a North Sea ferry on fire while smoking cannabis in his cabin has been jailed for 11 years.

Several passengers had to be airlifted to hospital as the ship was forced to turn back to North Shields on its way to Holland in December 2013.

Sentencing him to 11 years in jail, Judge James Goss QC said it was a "spectacular piece of recklessness" that carried the highest culpability.

Gregg Easteal reports:

View from border: Berwick's reaction to the referendum

Aside from the economic and political arguments, nowhere in the North East region has been more aware of the implications of the referendum result than the town of Berwick in the far north of Northumberland.

Kenny Toal has spent the day there, following Scotland's decision to reject independence:

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Referendum reaction: The North East economy

Further devolution in Scotland without similar powers for the North East could be bad for business, according to one of the region's leading business figures.

Fergus Trim, Development Director at Quorum Development Partners, said: "If we can mirror what's being offered in Scotland and take more control of the economy here, then that will be positive for us."

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Sturgeon: 'No greater privilege than to seek to lead the Party'

Nicola Sturgeon has said that in the aftermath of Alex Salmond's resignation as First Minister, it would be a "privilege..to seek to lead the Party."

"Alex's announcement today inevitably raises the question of whether I will be a candidate to succeed him as SNP leader.

"I can think of no greater privilege than to seek to lead the Party I joined when I was just 16. However, that decision is not for today.

"My priority this weekend, after a long and hard campaign, is to get some rest and spend time with my family.

"I also want the focus over the next few days to be on the outstanding record and achievements of the finest First Minister Scotland has had.

– Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Salmond resigns after Scotland rejects independence

Alex Salmond driven through a side entrance at Aberdeen Airport. Credit: Newsline Media

Alex Salmond was pictured looking disappointed in the early hours of this morning after results started to point towards a victory for the No campaign.

Scotland's First Minister was shown being driven through a side entrance to a private plane at Aberdeen Airport.

Early results and final polling had indicated that Scottish voters were most likely to have rejected independence in yesterday's vote - perhaps explaining the apparent dejection on Salmond's face.

Alex Salmond today said he would be standing down as Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National Party leader after voters in Scotland rejected independence in an historic referendum.

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Nicola Sturgeon pays emotional tribute to Alex Salmond

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has paid tribute to Alex Salmond, after he announced he would be leaving his post in the wake of the independence referendum rejection.

In a full statement on her website, she praised Salmond's achievements whilst in office as "second to none."

Nicola Sturgeon also said that the personal debt she owed him was "immeasurable."

"Alex Salmond's achievements as SNP leader and Scotland's First Minister are second to none.

"He led the SNP into government and has given our country a renewed self confidence.

"Through policies such as the council tax freeze, free prescriptions and the scrapping of tuition fees, he has made a real difference for hundreds of thousands of Scots.

"And yesterday he inspired 1.6 million of our fellow citizens to vote Yes to independence.

"The personal debt of gratitude I owe Alex is immeasurable. He has been my friend, mentor and colleague for more than 20 years. Quite simply, I would not have been able to do what I have in politics without his constant advice, guidance and support through all these years."

– Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Ferry company says they are 'committed' to passenger safety

Following on from the announcement of Boden George Hughes' sentencing of 11 years imprisonment, DFDS Seaways say they do not wish to comment on the case but are "committed" to providing a safe environment for all crew and passengers.

Today, 19th September 2014, Boden Georga Hughes has been sentenced in court after admitting to charges of arson and affray on the King Seaways ferry traveling from North Shields to Amsterdam on 28th December 2013. As this is a criminal proceeding, we do not wish to comment on this any further other than to say at DFDS Seaways we are committed to providing a safe a reliable service to all our crew and passengers.

– DFDS Seaways

11 years for man who caused North Sea ferry blaze

A man who set fire to a North Sea ferry while smoking cannabis in his cabin has been jailed for 11 years.

26-year-old Boden Hughes, from Sunderland, had been drinking heavily on board the vessel when he set a pile of clothes alight after tossing a lighter onto them.

Flames soon engulfed the room and smoke filled the corridor with panicked passengers being evacuated onto a higher deck.

Newcastle Crown Court was told crew members attempted to tackle the blaze after the alarm was raised but two fire extinguishers proved ineffectual.

They also struggled to remove Hughes from the room, who they found half naked on the floor, and when they did he began to fight with a friend who was also on board.

Ian Lawrie QC, prosecuting, said eventually the ship's sprinkler system kicked in and put the fire out, which ended up costing DFDS a total of £800,000.

Sentencing him to 11 years in jail, Judge James Goss QC said it was a "spectacular piece of recklessness" that carried the highest culpability.

Panic was caused, passengers were injured and £800,000 losses were caused to the operator.

Fires on ships are even more dangerous than those on land, the escape routes are limited and the stability of the vessel can be affected by the use of water.

– Judge James Goss QC

The blaze broke out aboard the DFDS ferry as it sailed between North Shields and Amsterdam in December 2013.

In total 27 people required treatment for smoke inhalation and six people were airlifted from the vessel, including a pregnant woman.

The ferry, with a total of 946 passengers and 127 crew on board, was then diverted back to the North Shields terminal.

Christopher Morrison, defending, said Hughes was "extremely sorry, especially to those who were airlifted" as well as to the company and crew.

He received a nine year sentence for the ferry incident and two years for a separate conviction of conspiracy to steal railway cable.

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