Sec­ond trial starts for Billy

BUT UK GOV­ERN­MENT UN­ABLE TO SPEED UP THE LE­GAL PROCESS IN IN­DIA DE­SPITE LO­CAL MAN’S TWO-YEAR OR­DEAL

The Oban Times - - Front Page - STEVEN RAE srae@oban­times.co.uk

THE le­gal bat­tle to clear Con­nel sailor, Billy Irv­ing, of gun-run­ning charges and re­unite him with his part­ner and baby son got un­der way again in the In­dian Supreme Court on Mon­day. Hav­ing been told that the case against him and his fel­low crew mem­bers was quashed at Madras high court in July 2014, In­dian state po­lice ap­plied for a re­trial. The case was re­opened on Mon­day, end­ing an ag­o­nis­ing de­lay of two years.

Billy Irv­ing and five other Bri­tish sailors were em­ployed to pro­vide anti-piracy pa­trols on a ship op­er­ated by US firm, Ad­vanFort, when it strayed into In­dian wa­ters in 2013.

They were charged in Oc­to­ber 12, 2013 af­ter 35 semi-au­to­matic weapons and 5,700 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion were found on board the MV Sea­man Guard Ohio

It later tran­spired the ship had been given per­mis­sion to shel­ter in the wa­ters dur­ing a cy­clone.

Billy and his col­leagues have main­tained their in­no­cence from the very start of the le­gal process.

Now the for­mer solider, who comes orig­i­nally from Camp­bel­town, hopes that he might be home for Christ­mas to spend time with his fiancée, Yvonne MacHugh, 27, and baby boy Wil­liam, seven months, whom he has only seen once since his birth in Fe­bru­ary.

The trial is ex­pected to last for a num­ber of weeks and, if Billy and his fel­low crew­men are ac­quit­ted as ex­pected, it may still take months be­fore he can re­turn home. The For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice (FCO) will have to ap­ply to the state po­lice for the men’s pass­ports, which they cur­rently hold.

How­ever, the UK gov­ern­ment has said it can­not speed up or in­ter­fere in the In­dian le­gal process and there­fore will need to wait for the trial to take place be­fore of­fer­ing sup­port to the men.

A For­eign Of­fice spokesman con­firmed that both the Prime Min­is­ter, David Cameron, and the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tary, Philip Ham­mond, had raised the mat­ter with In­dian min­is­ters, as had the coun­try’s High Com­mis­sioner, Shrikanth Ran­jan Mathai.

Billy, once a star player for Taynuilt shinty club, told the Oban Times: ‘The FCO say they have raised our case at the high­est level now for nearly two years.

‘It shows you that just rais­ing our case has done noth­ing and they will not in­ter­fere at all even when we have proved our hu­man rights have been vi­o­lated’. Billy and his fel­low de­fen­dants say this is ver­i­fied by letters from In­dian lawyers, cam­paign group Hu­man Rights at Sea and other or­gan­i­sa­tions.

He con­tin­ued: ‘ But the FCO re­ply is they will not help and will not in­ves­ti­gate it un­til it is all over.

‘For two years our hu­man rights have been vi­o­lated and the UK gov­ern­ment is happy to let our hu­man rights con­tinue to be vi­o­lated for how­ever long this fi­asco will go on for.

‘At last the trial has started. The Supreme Court is held on three days a week, Mon­day Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, so it is a slow process.

‘On the first day of court, the charges were read out.’

Para­chute reg­i­ment vet­eran Billy, 35, added: ‘ On Mon­day, we ob­vi­ously gave a re­ply of “not guilty” to all charges.

‘I am hop­ing it will all be over with be­fore De­cem­ber and that I get home for Christ­mas.

‘I re­ally want to say a mas­sive thank you to ev­ery­one for their sup­port.

‘It has been re­ally help­ful when I am out here.’

Along­side Billy, 28 other men were on pa­trol when they were ar­rested.

The UK na­tion­als also fac­ing charges are Nick Dunn from Ash­ing­ton, Northum­ber­land, John Armstrong of Wig­ton, Cum­bria, Ray Tin­dall from Ch­ester, Paul Tow­ers from Pock­ling­ton, east York­shire and Ni­cholas Simp­son from Cat­t­er­ick in north York­shire.

HOME THOUGHTS: Billy with his fiancée, Yvonne,

and their lit­tle boy, Wil­liam

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