Cheltenham man hunting the pirates to put them behind bars
FOR this Royal Navy man spending months tackling Somali pirates on the high seas has been worth it.
Lieutenant commander Chris Haley spent five months last winter in the Indian Ocean as part of a Nato mission to capture the criminals.
He left his Cheltenham home for the Seychelles to give evidence at the trial of 14 pirates he helped to capture in a dramatic raid on January 13.
Last week all the men were sentenced to between 10 and 12 years in prison.
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Mr Haley, 46, said: "There is a massive public perception that all we do is catch them and release them – but obviously not.
"I'm pleased because it's more bad guys put away and it vindicates why we are out there.
"Historically not just us but other nations have detained pirates and had to put them back in the water when there hasn't been the will to bother with prosecution.
"The fact these guys were successfully prosecuted and have gone to prison clears the seas of a few of them and vindicates our hard work – not just in physically capturing them but putting together the paperwork to present to the prosecution. It makes the hard graft worthwhile. It also sends a message out to the Somali pirates that if you do get caught you will get done for it. There is a real appetite to start sentencing these guys."
Mr Haley, who lives with his wife Caroline in Charlton Kings, spent between September 2011 and February 2012 patrolling the Somali coast and wider Indian Ocean on a huge tanker called Fort Victoria, with personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
"We hunted down a known pirate vessel which was called Yemeni 18," Mr Haley said.
"We found them and boarded them in what's known as a non-compliant boarding which means basically that they weren't stood there with their hands up and were going to make a bit of a fight of it. But when they saw us they were physically overmatched with a bunch of Royal Marines and a helicopter.
"They eventually threw their hands up in the air."
In another incident, Mr Haley said his ship came under attack from a pirate vessel in November.
"A bunch of pirates in a speed boat approached us and were making an attack run," he said. "They realised we were a great big warship with a lot of Royal Navy and Marines on board. They made a run for it.
"We launched the helicopter and then put Royal Marines in the water in our speed boats.
"We went after them and caught them. Seven men were sentenced to 10 years each."
Mr Haley, who has served in the 2003 Gulf War and Afghanistan, will keep his feet on dry land for the next 18 months.