Scots soldier jailed in India feels ‘betrayed’ by UK government

Billy Irving from Connel, Argyll, one of the so-called Chennai Six, arrives at Glasgow Airport, Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Billy Irving from Connel, Argyll, one of the so-called Chennai Six, arrives at Glasgow Airport, Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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A former Scottish soldier who spent four years in an Indian prison has said he feels “betrayed” by the UK government.

Billy Irving, 37, said he could “never forgive” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), accusing the government of failing to do enough to help.

Billy Irving

Billy Irving

Mr Irving touched down at Glasgow Airport on Wednesday, the first of the so-called Chennai Six to arrive back in the UK more than four years after they were jailed in India on weapons charges.

He and five other British men were guards on a ship to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean but were jailed in October 2013 after being charged with carrying unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

After years of campaigning, they won an appeal against their convictions last month and were given permission to leave India.

READ MORE: Partner of acquitted Scot ‘over the moon’ as Chennai Six not guilty

Mr Irving, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, told the Mail on Sunday newspaper: “I can never forgive the UK government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We would have been freed much sooner if they had really engaged in our plight and fought for us. I feel disgusted and betrayed.”

Mr Irving’s fiancee Yvonne MacHugh, who campaigned tirelessly for his release, described former foreign secretary Philip Hammond as “next to useless and uninterested at best”. She accused current incumbent Boris Johnson of “hypocrisy” for saying the FCO had worked on the case “unstintingly”.

“Billy and the other men would have been free two years ago if they had been truly there for us,” she said.

READ MORE: Rally in support of Scottish ex-soldier detained in India

Her partner described his ordeal - during which he contracted dysentery and lost three stone - as an “unbelievable nightmare” and spoke of his sorrow over being “robbed” of seeing his 33-month-old son William grow up.

Mr Irving said: “To finally smell fresh air and feel cold, wet rain on my face is the most fantastic feeling in the world.

READ MORE: Case against Chennai Six ‘utter nonsense’

“Now I just want to get to know my son, focus on being a proper father and spend time with my family.”

The UK government said the case had been raised more than 50 times at ministerial level and nine times with the Indian prime minister since October 2013.

An FCO spokeswoman said: “The Foreign Office worked tirelessly behind the scenes to reunite these men with their families.

“This included lobbying on their behalf, visiting them in prison, updating their families and maintaining close contact with their legal team.”