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19 September 2014, 15:50
An arsonist from Sunderland 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, 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.''
The blaze broke out aboard the DFDS ferry as it sailed between North Shields and Amsterdam in December.
In total 27 people required treatment for smoke inhalation and six people were airlifted from the vessel, including a pregnant woman.
The ferry, which was around 30 miles north east of Flamborough Head, near Scarborough, 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 had previously pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and a charge of affray, after failing in an attempt to argue the court had no jurisdiction in his case because the incident took place at sea.
He received a nine year sentence for the ferry incident and two years for a separate conviction of conspiracy to steal railway cable.