The UK urgently needs a new definition of treason that will recognise the nature of the threats we face today, argues a new paper from Policy Exchange, Aiding the Enemy: How and why to restore the law of treason, by Tom Tugendhat MP, Khalid Mahmood MP, Head of Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project Professor Richard Ekins and barrister and former army officer Patrick Hennessey.
The Treason Act 1351, which still remains law, has been overtaken by changes in modern social and political conditions; it is not a secure ground on which to mount prosecutions. A law made in the time of Edward III is no longer appropriate more than 70 years into the reign of Elizabeth II. The law as it stands fails to mark out and punish the wrong of betraying one’s country.
This week it emerged that Home Secretary Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP has taken steps to allow the group of jihadists known as ‘The Beatles’ to be sent to America to face not only trial but – in a departure from the UK’s previous position – a possible death penalty. Yet Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikhwere both British citizens when they chose to betray their compatriots by joining and fighting for Islamic State – and a workable law of treason would have allowed for them to be prosecuted accordingly.
On Friday 20th July, Khalid Ali was jailed for life after being convicted of planning a knife attack in Westminster, having previously made bombs for the Taliban. Between 2006 and 2017, 193 people were sentenced to imprisonment for terrorism offences, more than 80 of them (including notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary) now due for release before the end of the year. Many of them will, like Ali and Choudary, have betrayed this country; if they had been convicted of treason and imprisoned for life, the UK would be considerably safer.