Shamima Begum Should Be Granted Legal Aid, Ex-Police Chief Says

Del Babu says there should be a "serious case review" into how authorities behaved before she fled.

Shamima Begum, the teenage Isis bride who fled Britain for Syria four years ago, should receive state aid to fund a legal fight over her British citizenship, a former Scotland Yard chief has said.

Ex-police chief Dal Babu, who is close to Begum’s family, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that legal aid was appropriate in Begum’s case as there was evidence that authorities did not act to prevent her grooming before she travelled to Syria.

Begum left her home in Bethnal Green, east London, at the age of 15 to join the so-called Islamic State (Isis) following months-long conversations with members of the terror group.

In February this year she was stripped of her British citizenship after being tracked to a refugee camp in northern Syria in February.

The Daily Mail newspaper reported on Monday that she had secured legal aid funding for her appeal against the decision.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said giving Shamima Begum access to legal aid would make him “very uncomfortable”.

He said the now 19-year-old “knew the choices she was making”, but acknowledged that the UK is a country which believes people should have access to legal representation.

Shamima Begum left her home in Bethnal Green, east London, four years ago at the age of 15.
Shamima Begum left her home in Bethnal Green, east London, four years ago at the age of 15.

But Babu said Begum’s school and social workers “were aware” she was being enticed to flee her home by Isis members and that a “serious case review” into officials’ conduct was appropriate.

He said: “She was 15 when she was groomed, the police were aware of this, the counter-terrorism police were aware of this. The school she was at was aware of this and actually, the social workers at Tower Hamlets council were aware of this.

“There has been no serious case review. Normally when a young person dies as a result of failings in safeguarding you have a serious case review. We’ve had that with famous cases – Victoria Climbie, Baby P – they’ve all had serious case reviews. Tower Hamlets council have not had a serious case review in this.

Responding to whether she would need legal aid to present her case in court, Babu said: “Legal aid is a principle of the British justice system. There will be people who can afford to have swanky lawyers, there will be people who have no money and who are in destitute situations.”

“If you talk to any of the journalists who have been to the camps… there are a number of young people there who were taken there, who were coerced there, whose families took them there.

“You had children going there as nine-year-olds, ten-year-olds, who are now sitting in the camps.

“They are totally innocent of all of the actions of their parents but nevertheless, they’re in the camps.

“So we need to understand what position, what legal position, those young people have. This is why Shamima’s case is so important.”

Ex-Metropolitan Police chief Dal Babu said Shamima Begum deserves legal aid.
Ex-Metropolitan Police chief Dal Babu said Shamima Begum deserves legal aid.

Begum has claimed in interviews with media since her discovery in the al-Hawl camp in the northeast of the war-torn country that she was “just a housewife” in the former Isis stronghold of Raqqa.

The teenager married a Dutch Isis fighter after her arrival in Syria in 2015.

But a security service source told the Mail on Sunday this weekend there was evidence Begum had stitched together suicide vests on people which could then not be removed.

Asked about the reports, Babu said: “I’ve read the reports [about Begum’s alleged activity in Syria], I don’t know what the veracity of those reports are. But the reality is that Isis is a horrendous organisation – an organisation of pure evil – why would anyone of sane mind join them? She was groomed.

“Counter-terrorism police, the school… Tower Hamlet’s social workers knew about this and they did not inform the families.”

Begum had previously given birth to two children who later died and was heavily pregnant with her third child when she was first interviewed by media in February.

She subsequently gave birth to a boy, Jarrah, who died just a few days later.

Guidelines say anyone is entitled to legal aid if they are involved in a case in England and Wales and can’t afford the costs.

The Legal Aid Agency said it would not comment on individual cases but that anyone applying for legal aid in a Special Immigration Appeal Commission case is subject to strict tests on eligibility.


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