Lloyd Gunton has been handed a life sentence with a minimum of 11 years for conspiring to launch an ISIS-inspired attack on a Justin Bieber concert.
The 17-year-old of British heritage is from Rhonnda Gynon Taf, and was raided by the police on the 30th of June last year as they feared an impending attack. He was detained at home, and a claw hammer, a gutting knife and a martyrdom letter were found among his possessions. He gave up his phone to a police search, telling the authorities that his Instagram password was TruckAttack.
The martyrdom letter read as follows:
“I am a soldier of the Islamic State. I have attacked Cardiff today because your government keeps bombing targets in Syria and Iraq. There will be more attacks in the future.”
The teenager was accused of preparing for an act of terrorism, two acts of encouraging terrorism online and two charges of possessing editions of an ISIS propaganda magazine. He denied these charges.
Jurors were also shown a note where the boy had mentioned, “Run down the non-believers with a car,” and “Strike the infidels who oppose Allah in the neck.”
The police also searched his internet history and found that his ISIS-inspired searches had begun with research regarding Jihadi John in June 2016, and included searches about attacks in London, France and Germany, as well as copies of ISIS propaganda magazines, detailing how to carry out knife and vehicle attacks.
He told the jury he had no interest in carrying out the attacks, he was simply curious to see how easy it was for them to be planned. He said he did not believe in Islam, did not own a copy of the Quran, and ate ham.
He explained, “I wanted to see how easy it was for people who had an interest in terrorism to go online and get information because the police and government are trying to crack down on terrorism and radicalization. I wanted to see if it was possible not for me but from someone else’s point of view.”
His Defence Counsel, Delroy Henry, said, “He was drawin into it, curiosity got the better of him.”
The police also found that Gunton had been talking to someone calling themselves ‘Baghdadi’ on Instagram for about a week. The jurors were told that the leader of ISIS went by the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The defendant said, “They started telling me about, instead of living your life like a good Muslim … basically kill people who don’t believe in Islam, because one day there will be more Muslims than Christians and Muslims, Islam will dominate the world.”
Days before the Justin Bieber concert at The Principality stadium in Cardiff, the boy had searched “Justin Bieber security”, “how to steal a car” and “how to steal a car from a non-believer” among other such warning phrases.
Gunton refuted these searches and the carrying of weapons by saying, “I never thought about doing it. Even though I did carry a hammer and knife I never thought about doing it for one minute.”
Although the jury were not told how Gunton had been caught, DS Lee Porter of the Welsh Extremism Counter-Terrorism Unit hinted that it was Gunton’s friends that turned him in.
“As he became radicalised his behaviour became a concern. Friends were aware that he was displaying extreme views and he had possession of a knife in school,” he said.
Since being charged, the accused was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, although it does not seem to have affected his ability to make decisions.
Sue Hemmings of the Crown Prosecution Service, said, “This teenager’s behavior over many months leaves no doubts that he intended to kill and maim as many people as possible in an attack reminiscent of the incident on Westminster Bridge.”
The judge told the teenager, who will be 18 in April of this year:
“I sentence you on the basis that at the time of your arrest you were within hours of committing an act of atrocity on the streets of Cardiff. Whether you would have targeted people attending that concert or others going about their lawful business in Cardiff that night is not certain.
I am sure that you planned not just the killing of one person but rather mass murder. In my judgment, I must pass an indeterminate sentence. Your actions show a total disregard for human life. I cannot foresee a time when I can be confident that your danger will have ended or decreased sufficiently to enable me to pass a determinate or extended sentence.”
In addition, the judge also lifted the restriction on the media that prevented them from naming the currently-underage Gunton after an application to the court by the Press Association, ruling that it was public interest to identify the defendant.