UK's youngest terror offender, boy, 16, sentenced

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Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The teenager previously admitted 12 terror offences at the Old Bailey

A teenager who is the youngest person in the UK to commit a terror offence has been given a two-year youth rehabilitation order.

The 16-year-old boy from Cornwall admitted 12 offences including downloading a bomb-making manual.

At the Old Bailey, Judge Mark Dennis QC said a custodial sentence would "undo" the progress made since the boy was arrested in July 2019.

The teenager, who cannot be named, had "significant vulnerabilities", he said.

The boy collected far right material and expressed racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views on online platforms between 2018 and July 2019, the court heard.

He became the leader of the British arm of a now banned neo-Nazi terrorist organisation called Feuerkrieg Division.

Working from his grandmother's house, he recruited members online such as Paul Dunleavy, a teenager from Rugby, who was jailed last year for preparing a terrorist attack.

The group wanted to enact "white jihad" and the genocide of non-white people, the court heard.

The judge said the boy had entered an "online world of wicked prejudice and violent bigotry".

He said that a custodial sentence caused "irreversible harm for the future" and that public safety required the boy's rehabilitation.

The judge said the teenager had "significant vulnerabilities" stemming from an "abnormal childhood".

Image source, West Midlands Police
Image caption,
Paul Dunleavy was jailed for five years and six months, after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court

The defendant first joined the neo-Nazi forum Fascist Forge in 2018, having downloaded his first bomb-making manual that year when he was 13.

He first came to the attention of police in July 2019 after detectives received information he was constructing a weapon.

When the home where he lived with his grandmother was searched, officers found a Nazi flag and a racist slogan painted on the garden shed.

The teenager appeared at court on bail by video link from Bodmin Magistrates' Court, sitting next to his grandmother.

Jenny Hopkins, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said after the case that people would "rightly be disturbed that a 13-year-old should hold the most appalling neo-Nazi beliefs".

The boy "claimed not to have racist views and just wanted to appear cool", she said, but the "body of evidence led to him pleading guilty to possession and dissemination of terrorist material".

Det Insp Mark Samuel, of Counter Terrorism Policing South West, said the case was a "timely reminder of potential extremism" online.

He said the "risk for the young and vulnerable" was "especially true during lockdown where young people spend more time online, often alone and unsupervised".

Ch Supt Jim Pearce from Devon and Cornwall Police said the age of the offender, the "extreme hatred displayed" and the speed with which he became leader of the extreme group, "brings into sharp focus the real and clear danger of online radicalisation".

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