The captain of Costa Concordia has been found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Captain Francesco Schettino was at the helm when the ship hit rocks off Italy in January 2012, killing 32 people.

He was accused of taking the vessel too close to the shore and then abandoning ship with passengers and crew still on board.

Schettino denied the charges and said he was being made a scapegoat.

Three judges at the end of the 19 month trial in Grosetto, Tuscany, handed down sentences of five years for shipwreck, 10 years for manslaughter and one year for leaving the ship before his passengers. Prosecutors had sought a jail term of 26 years.

Schettino was freed pending an appeal, a process that could last for several more years.

Even if the guilty verdict is confirmed at the next judicial level, he will then have recourse to a second appeal, which would be heard by Italy’s supreme court, The Telegraph reported.

Lawyers for Britons involved in the Costa Concordia disaster are continuing to fight for settlements.

Meanwhile, British victims, including four crew and six passengers, are seeking damages for injuries and psychological effects.

Philip Banks, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing some victims, said survivors has suffered a “horrendous ordeal which some may never truly overcome”.

Some passengers say they have suffered nightmares and flashbacks, while others say they were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The trauma they have been through has left some of them needing specialist therapy and counselling to come to terms with what happened and enable them to begin to move on with their lives,” Banks told the BBC.

The firm has secured undisclosed settlements for a number of British passengers through the UK courts against Italian cruise operator Costa.

Lawyers were “continuing to fight for the rights of the remaining passengers and crew whose cases have not yet settled,” the firm said in a statement.

Banks said settlements would allow people to pay for treatments, to cover their lost earnings, and to replace personal items lost on board.

“It will also compensate them for pain and suffering,” he added.

Seamus Conlon, managing director of leading retailer said: “We’re sure that many of the victims and families of the Costa Concordia will feel that justice has been served now that Francesco Schettino has received a long sentence for abandoning his ship in 2012, although there may be some questions raised about whether 16 years is enough given that 32 people lost their lives in this tragic incident.

“Following the anniversary of the sinking last month our community of over 200,000 users shared their views on current safety standards on cruise ships and we were pleased to see that British cruisers have greater confidence now when travelling on cruise ships thanks to the introduction of new policies by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), such as an increase in the number of lifejackets.

“However, while a third believe cruise ships are built for safety, a substantial 29% of our respondents remain convinced that ships are instead built to impress passengers. The Costa Concordia is an important reminder that safety is the primary concern for cruise liners and we’re confident these standards will only continue to increase.”