PRISONER Billy Irvine, 35, is torn between protesting his innocence and staying in jail or pleading guilty to get sent home to Scotland.
A PIRATE hunter jailed for five years in India says he is considering pleading guilty so he can serve out the rest of his sentence on Scottish soil.
The group have all maintained their innocence and are appealing the decision.
But Irving’s partner Yvonne McHugh says the process could take years and he is now considering applying for a transfer to a Scottish prison.
To do so, Irving, of Connel, near Oban, would be forced to plead guilty to the charges and, although there is an agreement in place between the UK and India, either country could still refuse an application.
The move comes in the wake of news that fellow Scot and Peru drugs mule Melissa Reid may be returning home after an appeal to be expelled from the country to help ease chronic jail overcrowding .
Yvonne, 27, who is only able to communicate with Billy through letters, said: “I’ve seen Melissa Reid’s case and, although Billy’s situation is different, it’s something we’ve looked at.
“Melissa pled guilty because she did it but, because Billy’s innocent, to then have to say he’ll waive all his rights to appeal and just come home is massive. It affects your whole life after that.
“But we’re also in a completely different situation to all the other men. Billy’s got a one-year-old son he’s only seen once.
“We had a whole life before this happened that we want to pick up afterwards.
“It just seems like sometimes the only option would be to go for a prisoner transfer back here so he and William have some sort of bond.
“From past experience over the last three years, it just seems like India will never give into this, regardless of how much evidence there is to prove their innocence and the lack of evidence to prove their guilt.
“It’s really hard to take the plunge and say, ‘Do we just cut our losses and get you home?’”
Irving has been stranded in India since 2013 along with crewmates from the anti-piracy ship Seaman Guard Ohio.
He shares a squalid cell with 22 colleagues in the notorious Puzhal prison in Chennai.
The 35-year-old and fellow Britons Ray Tindall, Nick Dunn, Paul Towers, John Armstrong and Nicholas Simpson had all been employed on anti-piracy duties in international waters by US firm AdvanFort. They were arrested after their ship strayed into Indian waters and weapons were found.
The men, including 14 Estonians and three Ukrainians, were originally held for six months after their arrest before the charges against them were quashed .
But police appealed the ruling and the men were convicted on January 11.
Yvonne says the couple will make the final decision when she visits him in July.
She said: “The longer it goes on and the more I look at different cases in India, a prison transfer is becoming more appealing. I’d never in a million years have thought I would have said that.
“We could be sitting here years down the line with Billy finally getting out and thinking, ‘Why did we waste so much time fighting a losing battle?’
“It’s a huge step to take when somebody is so clearly innocent. But the Indian authorities don’t have to grant it and it can take years.
“Billy would also have to come off the appeal process so, if all the other men win the appeal and get home, Billy would be left in prison. It’s a huge gamble but it’s becoming more appealing.”
On Tuesday, relatives of Irving and the other men will have a meeting with the Foreign Office in Carlisle. A protest rally in support of them will take place there and in Oban at the same time.
The Foreign Office have said a judge in Peru will rule whether 22-year-old Reid, jailed in 2013 for smuggling cocaine, should be expelled from the country.
A hearing in Lima on Tuesday also considered whether she should be transferred to a Scottish prison.
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