Charging people with treason potentially unlawful

The foreign secretary has been warned that plans to introduce treason laws to deal with terror offences could be in breach of human rights laws.

Last week during a commons debate Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering and a senior Tory member, said that the present legislation against jihadists was insufficient.

He urged the foreign secretary Philip Hammond to resurrect the 1351 Treason Act, which calls for life imprisonment of people who “levy war against our Lord the King in his realm, or give the King’s enemies comfort elsewhere”.

In response the foreign secretary said: “We’ve seen situations of people declaring that they have sworn personal allegiance to the so-called Islamic State and that does raise questions about their loyalty and allegiance to this country and raises questions about whether offences of treason could have been committed.”

Mr Hammond said that it would ultimately be a decision for the home secretary, Theresa May, but did not rule out the possibility of using such laws to punish British jihadists fighting for ISIS.

However, the move has since been dismissed as “ludicrous” by senior barristers, human rights experts and legal professionals speaking in the Times. They described the use of the law “legal sledgehammer to crack a nut” and said it would be difficult to bring any conviction to court.

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former director of public prosecutions was one of those to criticise the move. He said that charging those returning from Syria or Iraq with such a draconian offence was “a juvenile response to a grown-up problem”.

It has been widely reported that any applications for treason proceedings could be easily challenged in by the court in Strasbourg, as it would be subject to endless legal arguments under the 1998 Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

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