A 14-year-old, thought to be one of the UK’s youngest convicted terrorists, has avoided a custodial sentence despite a judge branding some of his comments “abhorrent”.
The boy shared extreme right-wing views online, expressed racist views, talked about carrying out a school shooting and wrote several suicide notes.
He was aged just 13 when he downloaded the Anarchist’s Cookbook, about how to make plastic explosives and a document about Middle Eastern bomb designs.
The teenager, who cannot be identified by the media, admitted three counts of possessing a terrorist publication at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in January.
The defendant, from the Darlington area, appeared before Newton Aycliffe Youth Court in County Durham, where the UK’s Chief Magistrate, Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring sentenced him.
The judge heard how counter terror police were alerted after the boy posted on social media about blowing up an orphanage.
A search of his family home led police to seize his computer, a hard drive and mobile phone, revealing a worrying history of interest in racist ideology, Nazism, the Columbine massacre, carrying out a school shooting and suicide.
Jane Stansfield, prosecuting, said the boy was just 11 when he downloaded an image of Hitler onto his computer.
An image was recovered of him making a Nazi salute, the court heard.
The teen spoke to the judge before he was sentenced and admitted his extremist views had developed over time, saying: “I turned into something that was not good.”
The defendant, accompanied by his mother, said he will not reoffend, that he became interested in school shootings after looking at right wing material and that he knew the difference between online bravado and reality.
Passing sentence, Judge Goldspring noted: “Just about every minority receives your vitriol and the terminology you used was concerning and abhorrent in equal measure.”
The judge said the boy had no formal autism diagnosis but displayed traits associated with the condition and had complex vulnerabilities and trauma in his past.
The judge decided that the boy, who hoped to go to university, was not “dangerous” in the legal sense and the best chance of rehabilitation came if he carried on his education.
He imposed a 12-month referral order in which he must work with the Youth Offending Service.
The judge took into account his guilty pleas, that he had not offended since his arrest last year and that the only evidence of him plotting any attack was what he had told others.
Stephen Andrews, defending, said: “You have before the courts a very complex young man showing signs of both extreme naivety and vulnerability at the same time as elements of sophistication in access to information one would not ordinarily associate with someone of his age.”
After the case Detective Superintendent Matt Davison from Counter Terrorism Policing North East urged the public to report if they were worried about extremist views expressed by others.
He said: “We know it can seem like a big step to share your worries but in many cases the right support will come through education and health professionals and there isn’t a need for further police involvement.
“The key, however, is to report your concerns early so we can agree the appropriate support before the situation escalates into something more serious, or offences are committed.”