Jeremy Corbyn has reaffirmed his belief in the democratic right to legal representation, supporting moves to offer so-called “ISIS bride” Shamima Begum legal aid.
Corbyn’s comments come following reports that the Legal Aid Agency has granted Begum aid to fight her case against the government decision to strip her of her citizenship.
Speaking in Halifax, Corbyn stated that he supported upholding the rule of law and the values of our democratic society.
“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.
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.”Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn’s decision has been derided by a range of media outlets, leaving the question open as to whether they are merely anti-Corbyn or are now to be considered simply opposed to democracy itself. A strong argument could be made toward the latter considering some of the headlines, the tone and rhetoric straying into outright fake news territory.
The conflation between defending Shamima Begum and defending the right to fair representation before the law has been echoed in several other newspapers, primarily from the far-right press.
The right to legal representation is not a political football.
Dating back to 1836 in Britain, the right to counsel is enshrined in law and echoes earlier freedoms achieved in the Napoleonic Code of 1808. However, the right to counsel was for those who could afford it and many poor defendants had to rely on the hope of charity from willing lawyers prior to the Legal Aid and Advice Act of 1949.
The subversion of a democratic right that dates back nearly 300 years in a new effort to denigrate the leader of the opposition is yet another low in the ongoing media war against Jeremy Corbyn. The attack upon the system of legal aid itself is yet another assault on our democratic freedoms, particularly those that primarily service the poor.