A sixteen-year-old boy who allegedly wrote on Twitter, “I am a domestic terror threat. I will bomb a synagogue,” and appeared to begin trying to realise this ambition has outrageously avoided a custodial sentence.
Liverpool Youth Court heard that the boy, who has autism and cannot be named for legal reasons, searched Google for his nearest synagogue, downloaded instructions for making bombs and was pictured wearing a mask with swastikas on and making a white power salute and Nazi salute.
It is understood that the boy became radicalised after he began playing the free online video game Fortnite, which allows participants to contact other players in virtual “hangouts”.
Gerard Pitt, defending, said that the boy had become part of a hangout oriented towards far-right politics, and then went on to write a number of antisemitic, racist and anti-LGBT posts on social media, as well as some that promoted the “incel” subculture.
Mr Pitt told the court that the boy possessed a “very large library” of far-right content, but has since moved away from these views.
Sentencing, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring said: “Virtually every minority group that exists you had something derogatory to say about. I have been doing this job as a judge for twelve years and I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 23 years and this is some of the most appalling behaviour by a young person I have seen in terms of the comments you made, the views you expressed. They are, and should rightly be, abhorred by everyone.”
He added: “It is the scale, scope and nature of your hatred for fellow men and women. In fact my heart sank when I read the case papers for the first time.”
However, Mr Goldspring reportedly opined that it would be inappropriate to impose a custodial punishment and that this could jeopardise the positive rehabilitative steps that the boy has apparently made. Consequently, the boy was given only a twelve-month referral order. Mr Goldspring said: “I’m of the view, albeit I struggled greatly with making the decision, that a non-custodial sentence would be in the public interest.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We are seeing more and more youngsters being groomed and recruited by the far-right, which is immensely troubling. Video games are one of the most attractive mediums for extremist propagandising, and parents, teachers and the authorities ignore them at our peril. The Chief Magistrate, who even admitted that this is one of the most appalling cases in his entire career, is absolutely wrong not to impose a custodial sentence. He may, astoundingly, believe that it is not in the public interest to incarcerate someone who declared his intention to bomb a synagogue and may have sought ways to do so, but the Jewish community would beg to differ. It is not for nought that synagogues in the UK require security guards and other special safety measures. This sentence is grossly insufficient and must be enhanced.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has been monitoring and acting against the threat from the far-right for years and continues to support the authorities following suit.