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British Nationals: Foreign Armies and Militias

Volume 626: debated on Thursday 29 June 2017

2. What the Government’s policy is on the prosecution of British nationals who enlist to fight in foreign armies and militias. (900093)

All cases in which offences may have been committed under terrorism legislation are considered on their own merits by experienced specialist prosecutors in the Crown Prosecution Service counter-terrorism division. Prosecutions will go ahead when there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and a prosecution is required in the public interest.

At least 100 British citizens, including my constituent Aiden Aslin, have been to Syria and Iraq to fight with Kurdish peshmerga forces against Daesh. Those individuals who have returned to the UK have found themselves in a state of legal limbo, as neither the CPS nor local police forces seem to be able to reach a judgment on whether the Terrorism Acts should apply to them. Will the Attorney General’s office give greater guidance and support to those police forces? No individual deserves to be left in legal limbo.

I commend my hon. Friend for the persistence with which he has raised the case of his constituent. I know that he understands how difficult this is. Each case is different, and each case must be considered on its own merits by the police and then, in due course, by the CPS. On the question of guidance, he will understand that it is difficult for politicians to set out guidance to apply to each individual case. He will also know, however, that cases in which the effect of terrorism is felt abroad rather than in this country often require my consent, and I will think about whether I could give any specific guidance on what criteria I would take into account when considering the public interest element of such cases.

Many of my constituents would be surprised to learn that anyone who goes to Syria to fight is not tracked or tagged when they get back. Also, is the Attorney General aware of the real concern about how many people slip in and out of this country on borrowed or forged passports?

Yes, I do understand that. The message we must all try to give is that anyone who is attracted to the idea of going to fight in Syria or Iraq must be dissuaded from doing so, partly because of the personal risk that the hon. Gentleman describes but also because the picture is exceptionally complicated, and organisations that appear to be on the side of the angels may not in fact be so. It is important that everyone understands the legal and physical risks that they are running by doing that sort of thing.