Belfast Telegraph

Armagh teenager to plead guilty over threat to kill New Zealand PM

Matthew Burns leaves Newry Magistrates Court
Matthew Burns leaves Newry Magistrates Court

By Donal McMahon

A Co Armagh teenager has indicated he will be making a guilty plea to making social media death threats to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Matthew Burns (19) of Dundalk Road, Newtownhamilton, appeared at Newry Magistrates Court yesterday.

The accused's mother also attended the court in support of her son.

Ms Ardern was targeted by Burns after she spoke out to the New Zealand people following mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in March, which claimed the lives of 51 people and injured a further 49.

A Twitter message to the PM was made directly after the terrorist attack. The court has heard that an image of a gun silencer was sent with the message: "You're next."

The teenager was further charged with making similar threats to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Burns was arrested on April 11 and taken to Banbridge PSNI station for questioning.

The dates of offending of "menacing character" messages on Twitter and Facebook have now been consolidated to five charges from an initial 21, with dates from June 14, 2018 to March 20, 2019.

Defence barrister Kevin Magill said that it would "simplify the matter" with a plea of guilty to the new amalgamation of the offences.

"There will be a plea to all five charges," said the defence.

The barrister added: "There is now a psychiatric report available to probation to assist in making any reports required."

During a PSNI interview, Burns stated he had far-right political leanings and had negative sentiments towards minorities, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. Volumes of similar posts towards minorities have been under investigation by the PSNI cyber unit.

During the hearing District Judge Eamonn King ordered a pre-sentence report in relation to the accused's offending.

"All reports to be disclosed to the probation services to compile the report," ordered the judge.

The case was adjourned to next month when sentencing is expected to be made.

Burns was subsequently released on continuing bail.

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