Charges dropped against ex-soldier accused of attending terrorist training camps

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A British ex-soldier accused of attending terrorist training camps run by militia fighting against Islamic State has had charges against him dropped.

James Matthews, 43, from Dalston, east London, was charged with receiving instruction or training in Iraq and Syria on or before February 15 2016 “for purposes connected to the commission of preparation of terrorism”.

He had been due to face trial at the Old Bailey in November.

But at a hearing before Mr Justice Edis, prosecutor Tom Little QC announced the Crown had concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction on “evidential grounds”.

Mr Matthews entered a formal not guilty plea and the prosecution offered no evidence so a not guilty verdict was entered by the judge.

At the time Mr Matthews was charged, it was believed to be the first time that terrorism legislation had been used to prosecute someone who is helping a group which is also being assisted by the UK Government.

Mr Little defended the decision to bring the charge and stressed the review was based on further evidence “specific” to the case.

Joel Bennathan QC, defending, said Mr Matthews was “happy” at the move.

He said: “We have always said the decision to prosecute Mr Matthews for fighting with the YPG against Isis was extraordinary and totally unjustified.

“Mr Matthews is happy this has now come to an end.

“Mr Matthews was always open about what he had done and it is baffling that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) took two years to decide to prosecute him, then seven months later they have suddenly realised there is not enough evidence to do so.

“After two-and-a-half years, we suggest Mr Matthews is entitled to a full and proper explanation of what has happened here and invite the court to direct that should be done.”

Mr Justice Edis said: “The Attorney General is ultimately responsible and is accountable to Parliament for his function and I’m not sure the court ought to become embroiled in that.”

Mr Matthews sat in the well of the court as he was formally cleared of wrongdoing.

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