Thursday 18 April 2019 8:12 am

DEBATE: Is it right for Shamima Begum to receive legal aid for her citizenship appeal?

Is it right for Shamima Begum to receive legal aid for her citizenship appeal?

John Oxley, a barrister at Vardags, says YES.

When William Joyce was captured after six years of aiding the Nazis, he was hanged for treason. He was, however, first provided with lawyers and allowed to exhaust all avenues of appeal.

At Nuremberg, the architects of the Holocaust faced trial – represented by their lawyers.

I care very little whether those who joined the Islamic State spend the rest of their days exiled from this country or confined to a prison cell. Isis was a barbarous operation that committed genocide against the Yazidis and plotted to bring death and chaos to our own streets.

It is wrong to pretend that anyone who joined was naive to its murderous words, actions, and worldview.

Their fates, however, should be meted out justly. That includes the right to a defence, paid for by the state if necessary.

This is not about them or the awfulness of what they did. It is about us, our values, and what makes us different from the evil we fight against.

Read more: Shamima Begum got what she wanted: a one-way ticket out of British society

Luke Gittos, a lawyer, legal editor at Spiked Online, and author of Human Rights – Illusory Freedom, says NO.

Shamima Begum’s case is complicated. There is a strong argument that it requires careful consideration by the courts. Nonetheless, the outcry over granting her legal aid is entirely understandable.

Legal aid is on its knees. Criminal defendants, who are our fellow citizens, have to pay through the nose to defend allegations that they may be entirely innocent of.

Begum renounced her citizenship by leaving to fight for Isis. The same arguments for funding the representation of our citizens should not immediately extend to those who have openly declared war on our country.

Her case will cost little and is of public interest, especially with lots more Isis fighters now returning. But this is not just about money. This woman stands to benefit from the social provision that she openly denounced.

I am not surprised that this irks people. We are prioritising the rights of hostile combatants over the rights of our citizens. Our legal aid system needs to, at least, reconsider its priorities.


City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.