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No further action for 'Syria' boy

Published 13/05/2015

A youth will face no further action over suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism
A youth will face no further action over suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism

A 17-year-old boy who allegedly planned to travel to Syria to fight before changing his mind has been spared prosecution after a senior government law officer ruled that bringing the case was not in the public interest.

The teenager was said to have been intent on travelling to take part in jihad before having a change of heart and deciding to come home before he reached the country.

He was arrested in January last year by Metropolitan Police officers on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) originally concluded that the boy should be given a caution but this course of action was not possible because he did not admit offending, so it was determined that a prosecution was required.

However, in the first decision of its kind, in May last year the former solicitor general Sir Oliver Heald QC overruled the decision and the boy was told he would face no further action.

A spokeswoman for the CPS said: "In order to prosecute an offence that is committed for a purpose connected with the affairs of another country, the consent of the Attorney General is required by law.

"On this occasion, the Attorney General declined to give consent on public interest grounds."

The most recent figures showed that there are currently 29 defendants awaiting trial on Syria-related terrorism offences, with 15 convictions secured so far.

The spokeswoman added: "All of those cases required the Attorney General's consent, which was given.

"Indeed, this is the only occasion when consent has not been granted for such offences."

The CPS said evidence in the case indicated that the teenage suspect was reported missing after a note, allegedly written by him and explaining that he had gone to Syria to take part in "jihad", was found at his family home.

There was also evidence to suggest that, on the same day, he contacted a relative while in Turkey to claim that he had made a mistake and wanted to return to the UK.

Prosecutors were also asked to consider another letter allegedly written by the boy which included evidence suggesting that "there may have, at some point, been a desire to engage in violence, to establish an Islamic state and included evidence suggesting that the suspect understood the legal consequences of such activity".

There was no evidence that he had actively planned any acts of terrorism or engaged in preparation for any violent or terrorist related activity, the CPS said.

Prosecutors then considered whether charging him was required in the public interest. A factor in favour or bringing the prosecution was that some evidence contradicted statements given by the suspect in interview, suggesting he did not "readily admit to the facts established by the investigation", the CPS said.

It said aspects of the case "tending away from prosecution" were:

:: Evidence suggesting the suspect did not cross the border into Syria but remained on Turkish territory throughout his time away and may have quickly realised that he had made a mistake;

:: The suspect's previous good character and stable family background;

:: The suspect's age.

The CPS spokeswoman said: "As we have always said in relation to cases arising from the conflict in Syria, this allegation was considered on its own facts and merits.

"Taking into consideration all the relevant public interest factors, we concluded, in consultation with the police, that this suspect had shown genuine remorse for his actions and so the most appropriate course of action would have been a conditional caution, with the condition being to engage with Channel, a counter-terrorism prevention programme.

"However, such cautions can only be given where the suspect admits to the offending and no such admissions were made.

"Any decision by the CPS does not imply any finding concerning guilt or criminal conduct; the CPS makes decisions only according to the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and it is applied in all decisions on whether or not to prosecute.

"Being unable to offer a conditional caution, we considered that a prosecution would then be required in the public interest."

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General said: "The particular circumstances of this case meant that the decision whether or not to give permission to prosecute was finely balanced.

"The previous solicitor general carefully considered the details of the case, paying particular attention to the suspect's age, immaturity and the fact that he decided to come home before actually reaching Syria, and decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute".

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