A MAN accused of starting a fire on board a North Sea ferry will argue that the Crown Prosecution Service does not have jurisdiction to try his case.
Boden Hughes, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, is accused of starting a fire in a cabin of a DFDS vessel while it was 30 miles out to sea.
The 26-year-old appeared at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday – via videolink to HMP Durham – where he is due to be tried in June.
He did not enter a plea to charges of arson reckless to endangering life and affray, and the court heard his defence team say that as the alleged offence happened on a Danish ship while at sea, the crown court does not have jurisdiction. Judge Jeremy Freedman ordered a hearing to take place on May 8 to determine the jurisdiction argument.
He told Christopher Morrison, who defends Hughes: “In essence, you are challenging whether this crown court is the appropriate jurisdiction for the trial of the charge of arson.”
Mr Morrison confirmed the defence team will challenge whether the case should be heard at the crown court.
Ian Lowrie QC said prosecutors will argue that the case can and should be heard at the crown court.
Further expert evidence and the exact cost of the damage is being gathered.
Hughes was remanded in custody until the next hearing.
Two crew members and four passengers had to be winched off the DFDS Seaways vessel after breathing in smoke as a blaze took hold.
A further 15 passengers and eight crew members were treated by doctors for smoke-related injuries after the incident.
The ferry was forced to return to the Port of Tyne in North Shields, where Hughes was arrested.
The Amsterdam-bound ferry had 946 passengers and almost 130 crew were on board.
The fire broke out in a passenger cabin at around 10.45pm and was extinguished by 11pm.
RAF helicopters from Leconfield near Hull and Boulmer in Northumberland were scrambled to the 30,000-tonne ship, along with RNLI lifeboats from Bridlington and Filey.