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 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