An “obsessional” Muslim convert who downloaded videos on how to make a splinter-laden suicide vest has been incarcerated for four years and eight months.
Liam Fenn, 21, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, was referred to the government’s anti-terrorism program Prevent after commenting to a youth mentor in his sixth grade in March 2017.
He told police officers that he had sent emails to an account attributed to the banned terrorist group Al Muhajiroun for advice on how best to conduct jihad and to ask if he should travel to Medina to study , or to Syria to fight.
Fenn was clearly warned of the dangers of viewing and downloading extremist material and seeking advice from strangers over the Internet, but later admitted he couldn’t stop.
As of November 2017, he had repeatedly accessed an “enormous volume” of such material and used encrypted technology, the Manchester Crown Court was told.
On January 29th of that year, he was arrested and a number of electronic devices were confiscated from his bedroom.
Among numerous downloads were three videos that provided a detailed demonstration of how an explosives vest was made.
Fenn also accessed documents on how to carry out attacks using a vehicle as a weapon and how to prepare for a knife attack, and posted a video online with footage of speakers praising the so-called Islamic State and promoting acts of terrorism.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to eight cases in possession of a document that might be useful to a terrorist and in one case of ruthlessly promoting terrorism on various dates between March 2018 and January this year.
Alex Rose, who defended himself, said his client had undiagnosed autism at the time of the offenses and had a nervous breakdown following his father’s death at the age of 13.
This led him to find “solace” in becoming insular as he became obsessed with a number of different subjects, including religion – from Buddhism to Hinduism and Sikhism to Islam.
His questioning nature led him to a “pursuit of the truth” that focused on the more extreme aspects of the religion and spilled over into terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Rose said.
Judge Patrick Field QC, convicted Tuesday, said, “I am strongly advised that you read this offensive material because of your conversion to Islam and your obsessive interest in the religion.
“But it is clear to me that your interests went beyond purely religious ones.
“They have started looking at and getting caught up in material that addresses and extols violent Islamic extremism – material that promotes mass murder and glorifies terrorist attacks that have taken place.”
It was accepted that Fenn did not react to the information he collected and did not engage with others.
But Judge Field said to him, “I am satisfied that you have shown poor judgment and that your obsessive behavior has drawn you into that behavior.
“I believe these are a direct result of your autism.
“You are not without responsibility, however, because I am also pleased that you were aware that what you did was wrong and that you were involved in dangerous risk-taking.”
He classified Fenn as a “particularly worrisome perpetrator” and ordered that he must remain under license for another 12 months after his release from prison.
Fenn also has to serve two-thirds of his sentence before parole can consider him for release.