From The BBC
There have been calls for the UK's treason laws to be used against radical Muslim groups such as Islam4UK in response to their protests about the British army's campaign in Afghanistan. But how relevant is legislation which dates back to the 14th century?
Islam4UK proposed to demonstrate against the war at Wootton Bassett, where locals pay tribute to British soldiers whose bodies are brought home. The organisation's plan was greeted with outrage, with some claiming it could be considered to give "aid and comfort" to Britain's enemies, one of the definitions of treason.
The treason laws are among our oldest, and most symbolic legislation. And prosecution and punishment for treason was once one of the most powerful actions the British authorities could take.
But Islam4UK was subsequently banned under modern anti-terrorism legislation.
And former Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer argues that "total loyalty to the state is now no longer required by the state of its citizens". So is treason an outmoded concept? So could they (The treason laws) still be used to prosecute in Britain?
There is in fact a fascinating debate at the top levels of law and politics in Britain and beyond - about using treason law.
Lord Falconer says modern ideas of individual rights and allegiance now make treason hard to apply. People might feel their strongest allegiance to be towards their religion or even, say, to an organisation like Greenpeace.
"We live," he says, "in an era where the freedom of the individual is put above practically everything else". Until that individual wants to put up a loft conversion, of course, or constructively criticise a neighbour or colleague. Or enjoy a cigarette and/or a drink on a Saturday night or any one of a hundred things now regulated and prohibited under the greatest raft of legislation ever enacted in one decade in this country.
There are still some actions, such as fighting against British armed forces, where the call for treason prosecutions is especially strong. When British citizens were reported to be joining the Taliban in 2001, then government minister Lord Rooker was forthright: "Treason's like an elephant on the doorstep. You recognise it when you see it. And if you take up arms against your own country, your own state, whether in that state or abroad against that state's agents, that's an offence under the 1351 (Treason) Act."
But a range of more modern laws are being used to prosecute terrorism today, and it is striking that no prosecutions for treason were brought against republican terrorists during the recent conflict in Northern Ireland.
So should the old treason laws simply be repealed?
Edward Garnier, the Tory shadow attorney general, has his own doubts about their practical use. But he worries about the message a repeal would send. "Would people say Parliament doesn't think it's as important as it used to be to accept that there is something which used to be called allegiance but is now called the duties of the citizen?"
Lord Falconer thinks the laws remaining in force "probably do send an unhelpful signal" as far as individual rights and freedom of speech are concerned. But they have been kept, he suspects, because "there is an uneasy sense that there may be something which one can't imagine which would be so offensive to the collective view of the country…where treason might be of value".
Oh we don't have to imagine it, it is reality. A government which encouraged people to come who were intended, not to add enrichment as previous generations did, but to change the very fabric of the country forever into something we might not like, but which would suit those who intended to be our masters forever.
So the idea of treason is still with us, the word is still used, even if Britain has not followed the US in reviving the use of treason law.There is, for many, still a sense of a line not to be crossed, a betrayal too far in undermining your country.