24 Jan 2011

Charges expected over Christmas Island disaster

10:10 pm on 24 January 2011

Police are expected to lay charges over the Christmas Island boat disaster, the Australian government has revealed.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said on Monday the Australian Federal Police had been working tirelessly on its criminal investigation into the tragedy on 15 December, AAP reports.

The investigation encompassed the boat's Indonesian crew and "more substantial operators", Mr McClelland said.

At least 30 people died when asylum-seeker boat SIEV 221 crashed on rocks and broke apart off Christmas Island's Rocky Point.

Another 20 people are also believed to have died, but their bodies have not been recovered. Forty-two people survived.

The news on prosecutions came as Australia's Customs and Border Protection Command released an internal review clearing itself of any wrongdoing over the disaster.

Chief executive Michael Carmody said his staff had followed procedure, displayed good judgement and deserved high praise.

The report is the first of several into the disaster and also found that Customs had no intelligence to indicate when the boat left Indonesia or when it was likely to arrive at Christmas Island, which is in Australian territory.

The government has accepted the review's eight recommendations, including the trial of a land-based radar system and additional safety and rescue equipment at strategic locations.