Glasgow & West Scotland

Piracy row Scot Billy Irving to appeal Indian jail term

Billy Irving
Image caption Billy Irving has been jailed for five years along with five other former British soldiers

The partner of a Scot who has been jailed with five other UK nationals on firearms charges in India has said they will appeal against the verdict.

Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll, was among 35 sailors and guards who were arrested on the anti-piracy ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio on 12 October 2013.

They have been now jailed for five years and fined 3,000 rupees (£30).

Mr Irving's partner, Yvonne MacHugh, said she was devastated by the ruling and all six UK nationals would appeal.

Ms MacHugh, from Glasgow, said: "After two long years of fighting to get my partner Billy home I'm devastated with today's verdict. For the next five years our son won't have a father at home.

"Billy has passed on to me all of the evidence that we couldn't mention while the trial was going on.

"I intend to release this to the media so that the public can see that the boys did nothing wrong, that everything was legal and that this has been a miscarriage of justice."

Image caption Billy Irving outside court in India
Image copyright AP
Image caption Indian authorities said weapons and ammunition on board had not been properly declared

Mr Irving and five other former British soldiers were arrested after their ship strayed into Indian waters without permission.

When it was boarded, Indian customs officials and police found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

They were working for AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection in the Indian Ocean when their ship was detained.

The five other British nationals on the ship were Nick Dunn, of Ashington, Northumberland; Ray Tindall from Chester; Paul Towers from Pocklington, North Yorkshire; John Armstrong from Wigton, Cumbria; and Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire.

The charges against them were later dropped but the men were unable to leave India while prosecutors pursued an appeal, which has now been successful.

Image caption Nick Dunn, from Northumberland, is another of the six men who has been jailed

Ms MacHugh said all six men would now seek to have their convictions overturned.

"They are filing a petition against it but that won't happen until the 16th of January," she said.

"I hope to at least get them out on bail then figure out what to do next, but really this isn't a legal matter - this is a political matter."

"The government really has to get involved now because this is a miscarriage of justice."

Ms MacHugh previously started a petition on Change.org - which attracted the support of tens of thousands of people - saying the men had been "wrongly arrested and imprisoned by Indian authorities while working to protect ships from pirate attacks".

'Difficult time'

The six British men have consistently denied any wrongdoing and claim they have been abandoned by their American employers and not been paid since November 2013.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the men had 90 days to appeal against the decision.

A spokesman said: "Our staff in India and the UK have been in close contact with all six men since their arrest to provide support to them and their families, including attending court.

"Ministers have also raised this case at the highest levels, pressing for delays to be resolved.

"We recognise what a difficult time this is for those involved. There is now a 90-day window to appeal and we will continue to provide consular assistance.

"However, we cannot interfere in another country's judicial process."

Ken Peters, director of Justice and Public Affairs at the Mission to Seafarers, said: "To think that highly-trained professionals, properly accredited and doing a job that is protecting the world's interests, are then penalised in such a way is unthinkable."

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