Sewol ferry captain sentenced to 36 years in prison

10 November 2014 (Last Updated November 10th, 2014 18:30)

Captain of the South Korean ferry Sewol Lee Joon-seok has been sentenced to 36 years in prison after a court found him guilty of negligence.

Captain of the South Korean ferry Sewol Lee Joon-seok has been sentenced to 36 years in prison after a court found him guilty of negligence.

The ferry sank on 16 April and killed 304 passengers, most of them children.

The court found the remaining 13 crew members guilty of various charges, including negligence and alotted prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years, Reuters reported.

"Judges said that the captain was not the only person responsible for the tragedy and they accepted that his negligence did not amount to intent to kill." 

Previously, South Korean prosecutors had demanded the death sentence for the captain, who had been charged with homicide for failing to carry out his duty effectively; however, the court in the city of Gwangju rejected the murder charge and declared him guilty of gross negligence.

Judges said that the captain was not the only person responsible for the tragedy and they accepted that his negligence did not amount to intent to kill, according to BBC News.

One of the prosecutors has stated their intention to appeal against the ruling, particularly the not guilty verdict against three senior officers including the captain, Reuters reported.

The passenger ferry capsized off the south-west coast as it journeyed from Incheon in the north-west to the southern island of Jeju. The majority of the victims in the accident were school students but only 295 bodies have been retrieved by teams of divers and nine remain unaccounted for.

The South Korean Government called off the search for the remaining bodies hours before the verdict.