The UK’s youngest known terror offender has walked free from court after recruiting members for a neo-Nazi group.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was 13 when he committed his first offence and became part of an international online network of far-right extremists.
He admitted 12 terror offences, including the dissemination and possession of documents on making explosives, guns and weapons.
The teenager sat in court, wearing a white face mask and blue coat, holding his grandmother’s hand as he was sentenced on Monday.
Judge Mark Dennis QC said he had descended into an “online world of wicked prejudice and violent bigotry”, joining a neo-Nazi internet forum and speaking to extremists online.
But he said the boy had not “acted upon” any of the terrorist manuals he collected or planned an attack, and was “susceptible to the influence of others”.
Its entry on the UK’s list of proscribed groups said FKD had members across Europe and North America, and had promoted essays “advocating the use of violence and mass murder in pursuit of an apocalyptic race war”.
It said that in the US, members had been charged with planning to bomb a synagogue, news network and attack members of the LGBT+ community.
The Old Bailey heard that the boy communicated with the group’s leader, then a 13-year-old Estonian boy who called himself Commander.
He was tasked with founding and overseeing a British cell of the group, FKD GB, and finding and vetting new members.
One of his five recruits was teenager Paul Dunleavy, who was jailed for preparing acts of terrorism in November.
Another of the recruits was an undercover police officer, and the boy was arrested on 23 July 2019 over concerns he was trying to construct a weapon.
No weapons or explosive components were found by police who searched his home, where they found a Nazi flag and the “1488” neo-Nazi slogan painted on the garden shed.
The teenager, from Cornwall, had collected a significant amount of terrorist manuals and far-right material, including manifestos created by the Christchurch and San Diego shooters.
Since October 2018, he had been active on online platforms, expressing racist, homophobic and antisemitic views.
He talked about “gassing” Jewish people, hanging gay people and wanting to “shoot up their parades”, the court heard.
The defendant also commissioned a “Nuke London” poster which bore an image of an atom bomb cloud explosion over the Houses of Parliament with the slogan: “Sterilise the cesspit that you call London.”
The teenager had significant vulnerabilities, including “personality and developmental issues stemming from his abnormal childhood”, and had been socially isolated, Judge Dennis said.
He told the Old Bailey that a custodial sentence would have an adverse effect on the boy’s mental health and create a risk of self-harm, and that he took account of his guilty pleas and expressions of remorse.
“The focus has to return to the fact that the defendant was only 13 and 14 years old at the time of his offending,” the judge said.
“A non-custodial term would … best serve the need to ensure the critical rehabilitation process is successful in his case, and the public is protected from any future offending at his hands.”
The boy was given a two-year youth rehabilitation order and ordered to undergo counterterrorism interventions, as well as being banned from contacting extremists or using any internet-enabled device that cannot be checked by youth offending services and the police.
Judge Dennis told the boy that if he commits further offences, he will not have the excuse of “naivety or immaturity” and would be jailed, adding: “You have the opportunity to put this behind you and redirect your future.”
In a police interview, the defendant, now aged 16, denied having had any racist, homophobic or antisemitic views, and said his comments and posts were just “to look cool”.
He claimed that he had been considering leaving FKD for about a month before his arrest, but the prosecution said they did not accept the claim.
Judge Dennis said it was impossible to determine whether the claim was true without further evidence, but that it “cannot entirely be dismissed” and the boy had searched for information on deradicalisation online.
Defence barrister Deni Matthews had told the court of his troubled upbringing, which lacked a positive parental role model in his life.
He said: “A damaged young man sought approval by expressing views he certainly does not ascribe to now and was unlikely to have ascribed to genuinely at the time.”
Judge Dennis said he was “deeply concerned” about the wider picture revealed in the case, of young teenagers around the world developing violent extremist mindsets.
He said some may be exaggerating to “shock or impress” their peers, and move on as they got older, but “for others it will no doubt lead to acts of violence”.
Previously, Britain's youngest terror offender was a 14-year-old boy who plotted to murder police officers in Australia on Anzac Day.
The youth, from Blackburn, Lancashire, who can only be identified as RXG, sent encrypted messages instructing an Australian jihadist to launch attacks during a 2015 parade.
He was jailed for life in October 2015 after admitting inciting terrorism overseas, but last month the Parole Board decided he could be released.