Britain's youngest convicted terrorist must stay anonymous forever, judges rule

Teenager would be 'very vulnerable to exploitation and potential re-radicalisation'

Chris Baynes
Monday 29 July 2019 23:26
The Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand (File photo)
The Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand (File photo)

A British terrorist who was jailed for life at the age of 14 for plotting to murder Australian police officers has been granted lifelong anonymity.

Judges at the UK’s High Court ruled it was likely to cause the teenager, who can only be identified as RXG, “serious harm” if he was publicly named.

The man, now 18, from Blackburn, Lancashire, sent encrypted messages instructing an Australian jihadist to launch attacks during a 2015 Anzac Day parade.

He became the UK’s youngest convicted terrorist when he admitted inciting terrorism overseas at Manchester Crown Court in October 2015.

A ban on identifying the teenager, imposed at his sentencing hearing, would normally have expired on his 18th birthday.

But, in a rare ruling, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Nicklin extended his anonymity for life.

“We are satisfied that RXG’s case is an exceptional one,” Dame Victoria said.

“We acknowledge that any prohibition on the identification of a defendant in a criminal proceedings is a serious matter and represents a significant interference with the open justice principle.

“Nevertheless, on the evidence before us, in our judgment it is both necessary and proportionate.”

The judge said experts had concluded identifying RXG would “fundamentally undermine” his rehabilitation.

She added: “The position is exacerbated by his autism, which manifests itself in his obsessive behaviour.

“This, combined with his need for recognition and status, makes him very vulnerable to exploitation and potential re-radicalisation.”

The teenager had been recruited online by Isis propagandist Abu Khaled al-Cambodi.

At the age of just 14, he then took on the role of “organiser and adviser” and suggested beheading or using a car to kill officers.

Over nine days in 2015, he sent thousands of messages to 18-year-old Sevdet Besim, instructing him to kill police officers at Melbourne’s Anzac Day parade.

The event is held on 25 April each year to commemorate Australians and New Zealanders killed in conflict and, in 2015, marked the centenary of the First World War battle in Gallipoli.

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Australian police were alerted to the terror plot after British officers discovered material on the teenager’s phone.

The youth’s lawyers argued at a hearing in November last year there was a “significant risk of attacks or retaliation against him” if his identity was made public.

They also warned he would be at risk of re-radicalisation by extremists and his relatives would be likely to face reprisals were he named.

A number of media organisations made representations to the court, arguing he should be named.

Only a handful of lifelong anonymity orders have issued by UK courts. They have previously been granted to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who tortured and murdered Liverpool toddler James Bulger, and child killer Mary Bell.

Additional reporting by PA