The Foreign Secretary plans to make “the punishment fit for the crime” with a new Treason Act introducing life sentences for individuals who support militant groups and have engaged in combat with UK troops, according to an interview with The Sunday Times. The new legislation would include “more legal options” to prosecute hate preachers. The plans intend to address concerns that too many jihadists are escaping prosecution when they return to the UK.
Mr Hunt’s pledge has been viewed as one of the more controversial policies of the Tory leadership contest.
Mr Hunt warned in March that “decisions have consequences” after he was challenged as to why the UK refused to send officials to rescue Shamima Begum’s new born from Syria.
Ms Begum is a school girl from Bethnal Green in east London who married an Isil fighter and wanted to return to the UK in February 2019.
The chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat had called for the 1351 Treason Act to be updated.
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Home Secretary Sajid Javid also said the proposals were “worth looking at carefully”.
Mr Hunt said if he became Prime Minister his new Treason Act would update outdated definitions of treachery in the existing legislation which would include supporting foreign states and groups with which the UK is engaged in armed conflict.
Mr Hunt told The Sunday Times: “We must be able to properly punish those who betray our country.
“Betraying Britain by supporting terrorism is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit.
“The current laws are not adequate to cover all the acts which should be treated as treason.
“Plotting against Britain and fighting for our enemies is a direct assault on our whole society, and this new law would mean those who carry it out would face the proper punishment.”
Mr Hunt also said he would fund media organisations in eastern Europe and central Asia with £18 million to help tackle “disinformation” and “fake news”.
Ballot papers have been dispatched across the country to 160,000 Conservative Party members who will choose between Mr Hunt and his contender Boris Johnson.
The vote will choose the next leader of the party and the next prime minister with the result being announced on July 23.