Teenager in royal poison threat gets three years

A schoolboy who waged a campaign of terror by sending a letter apparently containing a deadly poison to Prince William and a bottle of aromatherapy oil laced with caustic soda to Cherie Blair was detained yesterday for three years.

Paul Smith, 17, claimed that he had been recruited over the internet by a man belonging to a Scottish terrorist organisation and had been acting under instructions to send items containing a powder purporting to be anthrax or ricin to various establishment targets including the House of Commons, Scotland Yard, the Scottish Parliament, the Home Office and the BBC.

At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, Smith, of Dumbarton, was sentenced by Lord Kingarth who said the teenager had become "involved in a sinister and sustained campaign which was calculated to cause and did cause considerable distress and alarm".

Between August 2001 and February last year, Smith, who was 15 at the time, sent a total of 44 letters.

Among the packages he admitted sending were two containing a substance claiming to be a eucalyptus aromatherapy oil - with instructions to rub the substance on the face and hands.

It contained sodium hydroxide - better known as caustic soda - which can burn the skin and damage the throat and stomach lining if inhaled.

Those packages were sent to Mrs Blair and to Margaret Ashcroft, an aide to the Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles. No one was injured.

Sentencing Smith to three years in a young offenders' institution with a 12-month supervision order on release, Lord Kingarth told him his crimes "could not properly be described as mere youthful indiscretions or pranks".

He added that background reports found it was uncertain whether Smith had professed remorse for his offences.