Seven men accused of hijacking an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight will face no action, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced.
The decision leaves the seven Nigerians free to claim asylum and prompted an angry backlash from the Home Office, which said it was “disappointed” and “frustrated” and pledged to deport them.
The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) was deployed to storm the Nave Andromeda on Oct 25 last year, when the crew claimed the ship had been taken over by violent stowaways.
Two of the seven – Matthew Okorie, 25 and Sunday Sylvester, 22 – were charged with offences of endangering ships at sea, which carries a two year jail sentence.
However, the CPS said the cases were being discontinued after new expert evidence emerged. Hampshire police had decided to take no action against the other five.
A CPS spokesman said that although it had already charged the men, further material was supplied by a maritime expert “which significantly undermined whether there was a threat of danger”.
He added: “Initial reports had indicated there was a real and imminent threat, but additional mobile phone footage and further expert analysis of the evidence cast doubt on whether the ship or the crew were put in danger.
“As the evidence could not show that the ship or crew were threatened, the legal test for the offence of conduct endangering ships under S.58 Merchant Shipping Act 1995 was no longer met.
“On that basis, we concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction for this offence and discontinued the case.”