Northern Ireland school lockdown after pupil posts 'gun video' on Facebook, court told
A pupil who posted a video of himself on Facebook apparently holding a gun and saying he was going to "shoot up" his school caused a police lockdown at the building, a court was told yesterday.
Earlier this year at Coleraine Youth Court, the boy, who is now 17 but was 15 at the time of the threat, admitted a string of charges in relation to the incident.
The defendant, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty to three charges of sending menacing messages via electronic communications.
He admitted that some time between September 9 and 13, 2016, he sent a message of himself holding an imitation firearm together with the comment "getting ready for school".
The second charge he admitted was sending a message which said: "Tryna figure out what to listen to before I go on my school shooting spree. Gotta make sure I pick the right song."
The third charge the boy admitted was sending a message showing a person making a gun gesture followed by the words 'tick tock'.
The teen also admitted six counts of possessing indecent photographs of children.
The boy, who is from Co Antrim, was back at youth court yesterday for sentencing, where he was made the subject of a Youth Conference Order.
Prosecutor James Brady told the court that on September 12, 2016, pupils from Our Lady of Lourdes School in Ballymoney alerted teachers that the youth had shared on social media an image of himself with a gun saying he was listening to his favourite music "before I go and shoot up the school".
Police were alerted and the school put on lockdown, with pupils not allowed in or out.
Officers rushed to his home, arrested the boy and seized a "silver cowboy-style pistol".
The defendant told police he recorded the message on Facebook "as a joke" and he had no intention of shooting up the school. He also claimed the gun was a toy he had found.
Police examined laptops and found the boy was a fan of Marilyn Manson's music. There were also references to firearms and mass school shootings.
Officers also discovered indecent images of children, including two deemed to be in the most serious category.
The teenager told police a video of him with guns was "part of an art project".
Defence barrister Stephen Mooney accepted it was a "uniquely troubling" case.
He told the court: "Thank heavens we have good gun control legislation in this jurisdiction.
"Whatever alarming traits or symptoms (shown by the defendant), they have not manifested themselves whatsoever in the two years since."
He said that since 2016 the boy had been on stringent bail conditions, including a prohibition on using the internet.
The court was told a Youth Conference Plan included an internet prohibition and the boy writing a letter of apology.
Mr Mooney said the video was as "intensive" a document he had ever seen.
The court heard that because of the boy's age, he will not be put on the sex offenders' register in relation to the indecent images he was found with.
Sentencing the defendant, District Judge Peter King told him he did not need to re-iterate "how incredibly dangerous the posting of the video was - you could have had yourself on the end of a police Taser, or worse".
He said such incidents were always treated extremely seriously and that the amount of resources needed by the school and police to deal with the episode "far outweighs a sick joke".
The judge said there had been references to "firearms and mass shootings" and stressed the indecent images were so concerning that if the youth had been an adult he would have been jailed.
The judge also referred to the "music you listen to".
The court heard the youth uses cannabis, and the judge said the "only hope" for him was to get into some form of education.
Under the terms of the Youth Conference Order, the boy has to write a letter of apology to the school principal and be supervised by the Youth Justice Agency for a year.
That will involve therapeutic intervention for harmful sexual behaviour, discussions about relationships, decision-making and peer pressure and a drugs assessment.
The youth also has to complete an education session with the PSNI armed response unit and submit to a restriction barring him for the internet.