7 Feb 2011

Crown drops some charges on first day of Tonga ferry disaster trial

2:30 pm on 7 February 2011

A number of charges have been dropped on the first day of the Princess Ashika manslaughter trial in Tonga.

Four men, including the New Zealander John Jonesse, are on trial after the deaths of 74 people in the 2009 sinking.

The Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, which he headed, is also charged.

All face charges of manslaughter by negligence.

The Crown has formally dropped ten charges faced by the corporation, and another ten faced by the ferry's captain.

They are technical charges that accused both of taking the vessel to sea without valid safety and loadline certificates.

A seven-person jury has been selected for the Tonga Supreme Court trial being held at Parliament.

The Crown will open its case tomorrow morning and call the first of its 30 or so witnesses.

The trial is expected to last at least one month.

The charges relate to only one of the sinking's victims, whose body was just one of two recovered.