Man faces treason charges after attempting to overthrow the Queen - but what does that mean and what is treason punishment?

What is the Treason Act? What is the penalty for committing treason? Everthing you need to know as unusual charges made

Queen Elizabeth II stands on the balcony at Buckingham Palace at the end of the Platinum Pageant on The Mall on June 5, 2022 in London, England. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952.
(Image credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images)

The man charged under the Treason Act for threatening to kill the Queen, may face punishment for treason. So what is the penalty for treason and does it lead to a mandatory sentence?


It's no wonder that the Queen and senior royals concerned by security changes after the crossbow intruder breached Windsor Castle. Per BBC News (opens in new tab), the man in question, Jaswant Singh Chail. Jaswant was sectioned under the Mental Health Act shortly after his arrest. 

The 20-year-old has now been charged under the Treason Act. These charges were laid down after the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command's investigation into the incident, which happened on Christmas 2021.

View of The Long Walk and Windsor Castle

(Image credit: Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Crown Prosecution Services (CPS (opens in new tab)) confirmed that the decision to press charges followed an investigation by the Met's counter-terrorism unit. In a statement the CPS said, “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr. Chail are active and that he has the right to a fair trial." They added that he is currently still in custody and will next appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 17, 2022.

Scotland Yard announced that the offenses are under Section 2 of the 1842 Treason Act - in this case, "discharging or aiming firearms, or throwing or using any offensive matter or weapon, with intent to injure or alarm Her Majesty."

What does treason mean?

The word treason may sound very old-fashioned to many and stir up gory images from shows like the Tudors - luckily it no longer has such bloody consequences. But what is the penalty for treason and what does it mean?

According to its definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary (opens in new tab), the crime of treason is described as, " showing no loyalty to your country, especially by helping its enemies or trying to defeat its government."

Who was the last person to be convicted of treason?

The Queen is joined on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the Trooping of the Colour ceremony. A pistol was fired whilst the Queen was returning to the Palace. The Queen was joined by Princess Margaret, Lady Diana Spencer, Prince Charles, Prince Philip and Prince Andrew. June 15th 1981.

(Image credit: Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

The last person to be convicted under the Treason Act was Marcus Serjeant, a 17-year-old who fired six blank shots at the Queen during the Trooping the Colour ceremony in 1981. 

Marcus was described as shy and a loner, according to PEOPLE (opens in new tab). It's reported that the young man had grown obsessive about the assassinations of American President John F. Kennedy and former Beatle John Lennon. The publication added that passages of his diaries read, “I am going to stun and mystify the whole world with nothing more than a gun – I will become the most famous teenager in the world.”

According to the BBC (opens in new tab), he served more than three years in jail, before being released in October 1984.

What is the penalty for treason?

Queen

(Image credit: Getty)

According to section 2 of the 1842 Treason Act (opens in new tab), those convicted can face up to seven years imprisonment.

Treason has varying levels, with high treason being the absolute worst charge that can be brought and it even led to famous executions like that of Guy Fawkes and even one monarch - King Charles I.

Luckily, per BBC News (opens in new tab), nobody can be executed for high treason anymore, as that was formally abolished in 1998. Although the Act has not been used since World War Two, technically, people can be sentenced to life in prison if convicted with charges.

Aoife Hanna
Aoife Hanna

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.