FOREIGN Secretary Jack Straw has told the family of deaf charity worker Ian Stillman he wants to see him freed from an Indian jail.

In the first meeting with his relatives since Ian was jailed three years ago, Mr Straw said all parties wanted to see an end to his plight.

Ian's sister-in-law Elspeth Dugdale said: "It was a private meeting and he asked us not to speak about it in detail but, in a nutshell, he said everybody involved was trying to find a way to a speedy conclusion.

"For lots of reasons, he'd be glad for this whole thing to come to an end."

Ian, 51, a father-of-two whose parents live in Tadcaster Road, York, is serving a ten-year sentence after being convicted of cannabis possession - a charge he has always denied.

As well as his deafness, he had a leg amputated after a road accident and suffers from diabetes.

A committed Christian, he moved to India nearly 30 years ago to set up a charity which has already helped more than 1,000 deaf Indians learn independence skills.

Elspeth said: "The meeting was very positive and encouraging. At least it helps us to have a clear idea of what the British Government thinks and have a sensible discussion about what the future holds."

Elspeth's husband, Jerry, was flying to India today in an effort to monitor Ian's health. The family has received reports that he is rapidly losing weight.

He will also attempt to visit Ian on his 52nd birthday on December 1.

"Ian will be told that we had this meeting with Mr Straw and we will let him know what we got out of it," said Elspeth.

"It is good that we can actually go to him and tell him that we are getting a positive message directly from the Government."

Jerry is also intending to meet the British High Commissioner and lawyers while he is in India.

The Evening Press has been campaigning for Ian Stillman's release after he was denied a sign language translator at his trial, effectively excluding him from taking part in the proceedings.

A senior human rights lawyer called it the worst miscarriage of justice he had experienced.

Updated: 11:50 Wednesday, November 20, 2002