John MccrackenDear John,
Thank you for you email, which was forwarded to me by my colleague Chris Stephens. I am aware of the terrible ongoing situation faced by Billy Irving and his shipmates and I have been involved in highlighting this case since raising it in parliament shortly after being elected in May.
Since then I have spoken to Billy’s parents and to his fiancé Yvonne and been in email correspondence with Billy personally.
Over the past few months I have a number of meetings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss this case, most recently last month with Foreign Office Minister, Hugo Swire MP and I can report there is another meeting scheduled for this afternoon, so that MPs can get an update on what the FCO are doing to secure the early release of these men.
At the last meeting, held on the day Billy and the others were convicted, I put on record to the FCO my deep disappointment at this conviction as many of us expected that Billy and his shipmates would be found Not Guilty and released, particularly as the case had already been thrown-out of court at an earlier hearing. I also expressed my shock at the length of sentence; the maximum possible term of 5 years “rigorous imprisonment”.
I understand it, the men have lodged an application for bail and that they are also appealing this verdict. I sincerely hope they will be successful in both of these.
These men have been detained in India for more than two years and for them now to face a further 5 years in prison for carrying weapons on board ship, violating border rules and entering Indian waters without valid documentation is I believe, extremely harsh.
Although the UK government has discussed Billy’s case with the Indian authorities many times, including during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK at the end of last year, it clearly hasn’t been enough and much, much more has to be done by the FCO and the British consular official in Chennai to support these men at this time and to secure their release from prison and a swift return home.
I will continue to question and meet with the Foreign Office and hopefully something can be done to bring this terrible situation to a acceptable conclusion as swiftly as possible.
Brendan O’Hara MP
Argyll & Bute
Mara EstoresThis is an all amazing fancy letter but nothing we all dont know about. “Continuing to question and meet with Foreign Office” clearly has not gone anywhere but the lads rotting in hell. ACTIONS are not hoped for but EXPECTED. 2 and a half years are enough time to beat around the bush.Lori BudgeIf there is any way we can help??????