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Ilford teen who was ‘brainwashed’ into making extremist material avoids jail

PUBLISHED: 11:51 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 18:32 20 March 2018

Barkingside Magistrates' Court. Picture: Ken Mears

Barkingside Magistrates' Court. Picture: Ken Mears

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A teenager from Ilford who was groomed into creating extremist material has avoided being sent to youth prison.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to three terrorism-related charges after he admitted burning numerous CDs containing audio lectures advocating jihadism.

He also pleaded guilty to creating documents with images of automatic rifles and the words “go my Muslim brothers” and “fight for Allah”.

Barkingside Magistrates Youth court heard yesterday (Monday, March 5) that the crimes were discovered when a man in his 50s left a carrier bag full of extremist leaflets on a Hammersmith and City tube line, which was found by a driver.

British Transport Police were called and using CCTV saw that the man had come from a “faith room” at the Royal London Hospital.

Upon searching the room, they found evidence of extremist leaflets there and believed the room was being used as a deposit for the materials.

Police also searched the man’s car and found more evidence.

Traces of the Ilford teen’s DNA and fingerprints were found on documents both at the hospital and in the man’s car and police visited the 17-year-old’s home and seized his computer and phone.

Analysis revealed that the flyers were created on gadgets belonging to the teen and experts also discovered 60 messages in an app which supported extremist beliefs.

The teen was arrested and bailed but failed to turn up to seven police appointments.

His defence lawyer. Sarah Robertson, said up until January 20 her client had been fully compliant with the bail conditions, but his apprenticeship and times of worship at a mosque started to interfere.

He had been fully compliant and engaged however when meeting the youth offender team.

She added that her client’s lack of maturity about the effects of his actions is perhaps why he is in this situation in the first place.

She said he was used by an older man, and he dropped out of education as a result but now realises the serious nature of what he has done.

He is against the killing of non-Muslims in the UK and thought his materials were primarily supporting Muslims in Chechnya.

At the time of meeting the man, who was an associate of his father, the teen was unemployed and isolated, but his circumstance have since “dramatically changed”.

He was also confused by the man’s beliefs and did not agree with all of his views.

Ms Robertson added that her client was remorseful and upset about having to put his family - who were devastated and shocked by the crime - through court.

Senior district judge, Emma Arbuthnot, said the defendant was an instrument in an attempt to groom or radicalise others.

“In essence, he was used for dirty work,” she said.

“He was gradually groomed and [the man] gradually revealed his extremist views.

“But these are serious offences - he was burning disks of the call to jihad - aimed to get others to possibly fight to their death.”

Judge Arbuthnot was concerned by the number of times the teen had missed bail but believed a custodial sentence should be the last resort.

She referenced a report from the Youth Offending Team, which advocated keeping the boy out of detention, which could make him more isolated and end his current apprenticeship.

The Judge also considered his home life and noted that he came from a close-knit family, who were shocked by his views.

They appeared with him in court and supported intensive intervention to combat the “brainwashing” that had been inflicted upon him.

Judge Arbuthnot handed the 17-year-old a 12-month referral order under the responsibility of Redbridge Youth Offending Team.

He was also ordered to attend a Prevent de-radicalising program and assessments with counter terrorism police.

“There are no chances at all – if you fail at any of these then you will come back in front of me and I will lock you up,” the judge warned.

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