Gabrielle Friel: Man guilty of weapons haul terrorism charge

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Image source, Police Scotland
Image caption,
Gabrielle Friel was found guilty of possessing weapons for purposes connected to an act of terrorism

A man has been found guilty under the Terrorism Act of possessing weapons including a crossbow, 15 crossbow arrows and a machete.

However, Gabrielle Friel was cleared of another charge alleging he wanted to carry out a "spree killing".

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh found the charge that he was motivated by incel (involuntary celibate) ideology was not proven.

The 22-year-old had denied both charges.

Friel was accused of having the weapons and a bulletproof vest at various locations including his home, a community justice social work centre and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital between 1 June and 16 August last year.

The charge stated that he had the weapons in circumstances "giving rise to the reasonable suspicion" that it was connected to the "commission, preparation or instigation" of an act of terror.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict.

Image source, COPFS
Image caption,
A crossbow, arrows, a scope, a machete and a ballistic vest were among the weapons on Friel's possession
Image source, COPFS

A second allegation that he prepared for terrorist acts by conducting online research in relation to spree killings during this time, particularly those connected with incels, was not proven.

As part of this charge, Friel was accused of having "expressed affinity with and sympathy for one incel-motivated mass murderer" and to have expressed "a desire to carry out a spree killing mass murder"

Judge Lord Beckett deferred sentencing until 12 January but told members of the jury it was likely to be a "substantial prison sentence".

Friel, a prisoner at Polmont young offenders' institution, denied both charges and gave evidence in his own defence during the trial.

He told the jury mass shooting was a "fantasy" for him and he had empathy for incel mass murder Elliot Rodger.

But he said he was not an incel and described killers as evil.

Image source, COPFS

He said he bought the weapons in summer 2019 as he wanted to provoke police to shoot him.

The court heard Friel had previously been sentenced to 300 hours of community service after pleading guilty to stabbing a police officer at Edinburgh College's Granton campus in 2017.

Mr Friel claimed his motivation for taking knives into the college and stabbing the officer was that he wanted police to kill him.

Assistant Chief Constable Patrick Campbell, of Police Scotland, welcomed the verdict in the "extremely complex" case.

He described Friel as a "dangerous, socially isolated and disaffected individual" and said the consequences of his actions could have been "catastrophic".

"I sincerely thank the health and social care professionals and the Police Scotland officers involved in what was an extremely complex and challenging investigation," he added.

"Their actions contributed to an early intervention and, undoubtedly prevented him undertaking an act that threatened the safety of our communities."

What is Incel?

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Image caption,
Elliot Rodgers murdered six people in 2014

Shorthand for involuntary celibacy, incel is an online subculture which, at its extreme, spreads violent misogyny and blames women for depriving men of sex and relationships.

Dr Kaitlyn Regehr, senior lecturer in media and digital culture, said the movement tends to attract individuals who are actively seeking companionship to deal with their loneliness.

They are almost always men in their late teens to late 20s who are socially inadequate and have often been bullied.

Dr Regehr told BBC Scotland: "Incel is an online community of people who perceive that they have an inability to enter romantic relationships and come to the digital space to voice feelings of loneliness, anger and, at times, desire for revenge.

"This anger tends to be directed at woman and so-called attractive people that are able to find sex and love."

The Kent University academic said they typically employ "dark, edgy humour" and "deify" those who have carried out atrocities, most notably Californian spree killer Elliott Rodger who murdered six people in 2014.

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