Scotland

Piracy row Scot Billy Irving 'struggling' in India

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Media captionMr Irving has spent over a year in India since the ship was detained

A Scot trapped in India by a dispute over anti-piracy operations has said he is struggling to support himself.

Speaking to BBC Alba's An La programme, Billy Irving said the UK authorities had provided little practical support.

Charges against him were dropped but Mr Irving, from Connel, Argyll, was unable to leave India after it emerged the authorities may pursue other charges.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it could provide advice but not financial assistance.

Mr Irving was arrested along with the rest of the crew of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio on 12 October 2013.

The Indian authorities accused them of illegally possessing weapons.

Their vessel, a private US-owned ship, was assisting with anti-piracy protection when it strayed into Indian waters.

Five other British nationals were on the ship:

  • Nick Dunn, of Ashington, Northumberland
  • Ray Tindall from Chester
  • Paul Towers from Pocklington, North Yorkshire
  • John Armstrong from Wigton, Cumbria
  • Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire

Charges against them were dropped in July.

MV Seaman Guard Ohio Image copyright AP
Image caption Indian authorities said they found weapons and ammunition which had not been properly declared

Taking part in his first broadcast interview, Mr Irving told BBC Alba: "As far as I know, we were allowed to go home.

"All we had to do was get our passports, belongings, and a No Objection Certificate that we're allowed to leave the country with no further charges."

Mr Irving and the other members of the crew raised an action in the courts to ensure they had the relevant paperwork but then discovered that they may face further charges.

"By the time we've got a hearing for it in the High Court an application had been put in (for a criminal prosecution).

"I'm assuming the process will be put on stay until the Supreme Court now has to have a judgement on the High Court's decision."

Mr Irving said he and his colleagues had been left in limbo, unable to go home and unable to support themselves in India.

The crew said they have not been paid by their employers AdvanFort since their arrest.

Welfare

Mr Irving praised the FCO for ensuring mail and parcels got to them in prison but claimed it had done little since.

He said: "Apart from that the FCO have basically done nothing to help us.

"They can't get involved in the legal system, which we understand, but on the welfare side they've not helped us at all.

"I have emails from them saying they will not help us when we have no accommodation, no food, no money to get ourselves stuff.

"They say it's the responsibility of my friends and family back home to support me."

The FCO has confirmed that it is limited in the help it can provide.

A spokesman said: "We are aware of recent developments in the case of the six British nationals in India and await the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing.

"We continue to provide consular assistance to the men and raise their case at the highest levels within the Indian government, which we will continue to do as appropriate."

He added: "We do not provide financial assistance to British nationals overseas.

"We can liaise with their family and friends to see if they can provide them with financial assistance."

The interview with Billy Irving will be broadcast on Reporting Scotland at 18:30 on BBC 1 Scotland and An La on BBC Alba at 19:00 on Friday 24 October.

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