Neo-Nazi teenager spared jail for encouraging terror attacks

Harry Vaughan had admitted 14 terror offences and two of downloading indecent images of children

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Monday 02 November 2020 17:15 GMT
Harry Vaughan was 16 when he started making propaganda posters for neo-Nazi groups
Harry Vaughan was 16 when he started making propaganda posters for neo-Nazi groups
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A neo-Nazi teenager who encouraged terror attacks and downloaded indecent images of young children has been spared jail.

Harry Vaughan, 18, made extremist propaganda and joined a spin-off of the National Action terrorist group.

He admitted 14 terror offences, including encouraging terrorism, and two of downloading indecent images of children that were linked to occult beliefs and Satanism.

The teenager was handed a suspended prison sentence at the Old Bailey on Monday.

A judge said he will not have to serve the 24-month term unless he commits more crimes or violates court orders in the next two years.

Mr Justice Sweeney ordered Vaughan to undergo a deradicalisation programme, rehabilitation activities and have his internet use monitored.

He warned him that if he violated the conditions or committed further offences, he would be sent to a young offenders’ institute to serve his sentence.

Prosecutors said Vaughan had been described as an “A* student” by teachers at the Tiffin boys’ grammar school in Kingston, and during legal proceedings he achieved the top grade in four A-level subjects.

His father, Jake Vaughan, holds the senior position of Reading Clerk in the House of Lords and the court heard his son had “every advantage that could be afforded to him” in life.

Naeem Mian QC, for the defence, described his parents as “bewildered”.

He told the court that Vaughan considered himself to have been “groomed” online through exposure to extremist material from the age of 14.

Mr Mian said a psychiatric report diagnosed him with high-functioning autism and a “deficiency in emotional intelligence”, which made him susceptible to influence from online groups.

Harry Vaughan’s laptop in his bedroom in his family home in Kingston, south-west London

“He disappeared down a rabbit hole of the internet and he was in a very dark place,” he added. “He has shown remorse and … stated that he no longer holds racist and homophobic views.”

The Old Bailey heard that Vaughan joined System Resistance Network (SRN), a spin-off of National Action which has since been banned, in 2018.

In an online application, Vaughan said he believed the “whole system is so diseased that it needs to be destroyed”.

“The time for discussion is over, the time for action is now,” he wrote. “I can handle myself in a fight and there is nothing I wouldn’t do if I thought it was essential to the cause.”

Prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds said he boasted to fellow neo-Nazis online that he had already been making his own posters to “spark tensions” in and around his school in Kingston, south-west London.

“Vaughan had an entrenched extreme right-wing racist mindset, as well as an interest in explosives, firearms and violence more generally,” he told the court.

“His posters endorse Nazism, violence, terrorism and acts by lone wolves.”

Between early 2018 and his arrest in June 2019, he was active across online platforms including a forum dedicated to fascism, “free speech” social network Gab and Discord messaging service.

Vaughan created and spread neo-Nazi posters, including some featuring images of Auschwitz and guns, with SRN’s network and that of Sonnenkrieg Division.

He also created an “idiots’ guide” for fellow extremists wanting to make their own propaganda, which was inspired by the Siege ideology of American neo-Nazi James Mason.

'Miss Hitler' and fellow neo-Nazis convicted of National Action membership

A specialist report concluded that the teenager followed a hybrid of occult “left-hand path” ideology and neo-Nazi accelerationism, which advocates terror attacks to bring about a race war.

The court heard the encouragement of terrorism charge was over three posters shared on the Fascist Forge forum, all with Sonnenkrieg Division’s logo, referencing hanging, arson and guns.

Vaughan admitted disseminating terrorist publications by directing forum users to an archive of viable instructions on creating homemade explosive devices and firearms.

He advised readers to encrypt the material and warned that they could be charged with the terror offences he was later prosecuted for.

“The feds can and will charge you if possible,” he wrote, calling material that other neo-Nazis had been jailed for as “like children's book in comparison”.

Vaughan also pleaded guilty to 12 counts of possessing documents of use to a terrorist, including on bomb-making, close combat techniques and building or adapting live-firearms.

He admitted two counts of downloading indecent images of children, which Mr Pawson-Pounds said were among a larger amount of material linked to the occult and Satanism.

All but two of more than 30 videos of children, including boys, had been deleted and had included the most serious category of child sex abuse images.

Vaughan was not charged with planning a terror attack himself, but Mr Pawson-Pounds said he had looked at online shopping websites for components including plastic pipes, and that evidence of his internet activity was limited.

Investigators managed to recover 4,200 images and 302 files that were all linked to extreme-right wing ideology, but Vaughan had made it impossible to access other material.

The court heard Vaughan had used “sophisticated” techniques to conceal his online activity and delete files, including encryption, the dark web and rebooting his laptop’s operating system.

He also used aliases online but was arrested after a national counter terrorism operation identified him among individuals posting messages on an extremist website.

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