IS bride is entitled to apply for legal aid, says Jeremy Corbyn

IS bride is entitled to apply for legal aid, says Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn, Islamic State, Shamima Begum, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has defended the right of Islamic State (IS) bride Shamima Begum to apply for legal aid after being stripped of her British citizenship.

The Labour leader said that, whatever crimes Ms Begum was accused of, she was entitled to proper legal representation.

His intervention came as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the idea she could receive taxpayer funding to challenge the decision to remover her citizenship made him “very uncomfortable”.

The Legal Aid Agency has refused to comment on a report by the Daily Mail that Ms Begum, who left the UK at the age of 15 to marry an IS fighter, has now been granted legal aid.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid took the decision to strip her of her rights after the teenager, now aged 19, turned up at the refugee camp in Syria.

However Mr Corbyn said the decision by Mr Javid was “very questionable” and that it was up to the Legal Aid Agency to decide whether she should receive assistance.

“She is a British national and, therefore, she has that right, like any of us do, to apply for legal aid if she has a problem. She has legal rights, just like anybody else does,” he said during a visit to an activity centre near Halifax.

“The whole point of legal aid is that if you’re facing a prosecution then you’re entitled to be represented and that’s a fundamental rule of law, a fundamental point in any democratic society.

“We cannot and should not judge outside of a court.

“A court must make that decision and every person in front of a court, whatever they’re accused of doing, how heinous or bad the crime is, is entitled to that representation.”

However Mr Hunt said Ms Begum “knew the choices she was making” when she left for Syria, although he accepted that people were entitled challenge decisions which the state had made about them.

“On a personal level, it makes me very uncomfortable because she made a series of choices and she knew the choices she was making, so I think we made decisions about her future based on those choices,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“However, we are a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them and, for obvious reasons, those decisions are made independent from politicians.”

Mr Javid said the award of legal aid was not a matter for ministers.

“In my understanding, it’s not the first time that someone who for national security reasons has had their citizenship deprived … has received legal aid,” he said.

Mark Tipper, whose brother Trooper Simon Tipper was killed in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, was among critics who condemned the reported award, telling the Mail it was “absolutely disgusting”.

Mr Tipper was previously refused funding to pursue a case in the civil courts, although the decision was later reversed following public outrage.

However Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent in the Metropolitan Police and a friend of the Begum family, said legal aid was necessary to ensure the correct process was followed.

“She was a young woman. She was 15 when she was groomed,” Mr Babu told the Today programme.

“I think legal aid is a principle of the British legal justice system.

“There will be people who can afford to have swanky lawyers, there will be people who have no money who are in desperate situations.”

A Legal Aid Agency spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases.

“Anybody applying for legal aid in a Special Immigration Appeal Commission case is subject to strict eligibility tests.”

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