A PASSENGER accused of starting a fire on board a North Sea ferry has denied arson charges.
Boden Hughes is said to have started a blaze in a cabin while the DFDS vessel was almost 30 miles out to sea on December 28.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday the 26-year-old, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, pleaded not guilty to arson with intent to endanger life and arson being reckless to life endangered.
He also pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray.
His denials were entered after his defence team lost an application claiming the English courts had no jurisdiction to try him on the charges.
Christopher Morrison, defending, said the alleged offence happened outside British territory, which extends 12 miles out to sea.
Judge Robert Adams ruled that the English court does have jurisdiction, despite the alleged offence happening 28 miles out.
The judge said legislation under the Merchant Shipping Act and the Senior Courts Act state that British citizens accused of offences at sea can be tried under English law.
Judge Adams said: “The court does have jurisdiction to try this case.”
James Curry, 29, of Calshot Road, Castletown, Sunderland, admitted a public order offence and common assault in relation to what happened on the boat.
He will be sentenced after Hughes’ trial, which is due to start on July 7.
Both men were remanded in custody.
Two crew members and four passengers had to be winched off the DFDS Seaways vessel after breathing in smoke as a blaze took hold in cabin 568.
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, where Hughes was arrested.
Some 946 passengers and almost 130 crew were on board the Amsterdam-bound ferry.