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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.

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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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