The captain and first mate of a British ferry that sliced into a fishing boat at high speed, killing its skipper, were convicted of manslaughter by a French court on Wednesday.

But the two Frenchmen were handed suspended sentences, upsetting the victim's widow who said they should have gone to jail.

The court in the Normandy town of Coutances handed former captain Paul Le Romancer, 59, an 18-month suspended sentence and first mate Yves Tournon, 48, a 12-month suspended sentence.

The court had heard that the "Condor Vitesse" catamaran, owned by Britain's Condor Ferries, had been travelling at high-speed in thick fog when it crashed into the fishing boat on March 28, 2011.

Evidence from France's BEA maritime authority revealed that the captain and first mate had been distracted before the crash -- discussing Halle Berry film "Catwoman" and drugs testing -- and did not pay enough attention to their radar.

Prosecutors said the pair had also deactivated the ship's anti-collision system and had not turned on its fog horn.

The collision took place in the English Channel, between the French port of Saint Malo and the island of Jersey.

The 86.6-metre (285-foot) catamaran sliced the 9.3-metre (30-foot) fishing boat in two, killing its captain Philippe Lesaulnier, a 42-year-old father of four.

The boat's two other crew members were fished out of the sea unharmed.

In tears after the verdict was announced, the victim's widow Delphine Lesaulnier said the court's decision was unacceptable.

"This is ridiculous, it's nothing at all," she said. "It's like you can kill someone, destroy a family and nothing happens."

Prosecutors had called for Le Romancer to be sentenced to a year in prison and for Tournon to face six months. It was not immediately clear if prosecutors would appeal the court's ruling.

Condor Ferries, based on the British island of Guernsey, was not itself prosecuted.