Pirate hunter’s appeal judge steps down
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.
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‘We have waited nearly 11 months for the judge to finally decide that the case is too complicated for him so he has withdrawn from it.
‘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.