Former Para Billy Irving to be bailed in India

Billy Irving, pictured with his girlfriend Yvonne MacHugh. Picture: Contributed
Billy Irving, pictured with his girlfriend Yvonne MacHugh. Picture: Contributed
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The family of a former Scots Para who has been held in an Indian jail for the past two months have been given the “best Christmas present ever” after it was revealed he will be freed on bail.

Maritime security guard Billy Irving, 33, from Connel, Argyll, was working on board the MV Seaman Guard Ohio to protect ships from pirate gangs in the Indian Ocean.

He completed his first trip with security firm Advanfort and was on his way home to his family when the Indian coastguard turned their ship back.

The vessel was held for two weeks before the 35 crew were arrested amid claims they had illegal weapons on board, illegally obtained fuel and strayed into Indian waters.

Mr Irving and his colleagues have been held in a cramped cell at Puzhal Central Prison, near Chennai in southern India, since October. His family have now been told that he will be released on bail.

His father, Jim Irving, from Appin, Argyll, said last night: “The whole family is just over the moon. We wouldn’t have got a better Christmas present than that. We’ve no details, he’s still in prison just now but apparently bail has been granted and in the next couple of days he should get out.”

Mr Irving was refused bail at four different hearings and his family feared he would be held in custody for up to two years before he went on trial.

He is likely to remain in India on bail while his father and partner Yvonne MacHugh plan to travel to the country for a court hearing next month.

Jim Irving said: “A lot depends on what happens on 15 January. These guys that are getting held, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s obviously a political or personal issue that is going on.”

“In my view, it’s the captain or the company that are responsible for any allegations made. The security guys have no control but they have been locked up for it.”

The crew, which includes five other British ex-soldiers, had been held since 18 October.

When the news first broke, Ms MacHugh launched a petition, signed by more than 36,000 people, calling on Foreign Secretary William Hague to act.