Pi­rate hunter’s ap­peal judge steps down

Campbeltown Courier - - FRONT PAGE -

THE AP­PEAL to free a for­mer Camp­bel­town para­trooper from his In­dian prison hell­hole has suf­fered a set­back.

The pre­sid­ing judge in Billy Irv­ing’s ap­peal has stepped down amid claims he found the case ‘too com­pli­cated’ to deal with, mean­ing that it will now have to be re­heard.

Ex-Gram­mar school pupil Billy is serv­ing a five-year sen­tence in Puzhal Prison, near Chen­nai, in In­dia, along­side five other Bri­tish ex-ser­vice­men.

Armed guards

The men, known as the Chen­nai Six, were work­ing as armed guards on­board the MV Sea­man Guard Ohio, pro­tect­ing ships from So­mali pi­rates in the In­dian Ocean.

They were ar­rested by In­dian au­thor­i­ties in Oc­to­ber 2013 for stray­ing into their waters with un­li­censed weapons, and were sen­tenced to five years in Jan­uary 2016.

The men have main­tained their in­no­cence through­out their or­deal, claim­ing that they had le­gal per­mits for their weapons.

Billy’s fam­ily has been wait­ing 11 months to hear the re­sults of the ap­peal so it was a ma­jor blow to find out that the de­ci­sion may now be long way off.

Billy’s fi­ancée Yvonne MacHugh posted on Face­book: ‘As you all know, the ap­peal was heard on Novem­ber 30 and a ver­dict should be is­sued within three months.

‘We have waited nearly 11 months for the judge to fi­nally de­cide that the case is too com­pli­cated for him so he has with­drawn from it.

Another judge

‘This means that it now needs to be reis­sued to another judge and a new ap­peal needs to be heard.

‘This is just typ­i­cal of the past four years of con­tin­u­ally bat­tling through frus­trat­ing set­backs time and time again.’

But it is not all dis­ap­point­ing for the fam­ily and friends of the Chen­nai Six.

Yvonne added: ‘I’d be ly­ing if I said the news didn’t hit me like a tonne of bricks at first. The thought of wait­ing even longer for the ap­peal to be­gin let alone end is ter­ri­fy­ing.

‘But the thought of los­ing an ap­peal on the grounds of a in­com­pe­tent judge is soul de­stroy­ing.

‘This is def­i­nitely a turn­ing point in our case, and one we des­per­ately needed.

‘The chief jus­tice [in In­dia] is now in­volved and mon­i­tor­ing the case and that can only be a pos­i­tive. She will ap­point a knowl­edge­able judge and en­sure the case is put through the courts as quickly as pos­si­ble.’

The fam­i­lies of the Chen­nai Six headed to Lon­don yes­ter­day, on the fourth an­niver­sary of the men’s ar­rest, to lobby politi­cians and hand a pe­ti­tion with more than 400,000 sig­na­tures to For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son de­mand­ing ac­tion.

Billy and his fi­nacée Yvonne MacHugh.

Billy Irv­ing was ar­rested in 2013.

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