How did a boy from Cornwall become the UKs youngest terror offender?

A boy from Cornwall is the youngest person in the UK to commit a terrorism offence. The teenager pleaded guilty to 12 offences and was given a two-year youth rehabilitation order instead.

His actions, carried out from his home in the South West, invite two immediate questions.

How and why?

The how is relatively easy to answer. He downloaded a bomb-making guide, while aged only 13, the first of many such documents he would own or share with others.

The why is more complicated.

He was active in online neo-Nazi networks – spaces where he could mask his age and real identity.

In this way, he was able to lead and recruit others.

After first joining extremist forums in 2018, the teenager followed the digital signposts into more private chat groups occupied by people from around the world.

Within months, he was creating the UK version of a neo-Nazi group called Feuerkrieg Division, which – unknown to him – was led by an even younger boy from Estonia.

FKD, since banned as a terrorist organisation in the UK, is one of several similar groups to first emerge online.

The neo-Nazi ideology promoted by FKD is at the furthest end of the extreme right.

It mocks far right organisations which engage in democratic politics or rallies, saying instead the only way forward is to trigger a race war and societal collapse through terrorist violence.

To this end, it glorifies various killers responsible for racist mass murder and provides practical instructions to its members, such as information on how to make and use weapons.

In court, the boy’s lawyers said he was home-schooled by his grandmother, socially isolated, and emotionally undeveloped after experiencing a “simply dreadful childhood” which resulted in him having no contact with his parents.

But, online, rather than seeming passive and lacking in confidence, he was assertive and confident enough to command others.

As a recruiter for FKD, he would send prospective members a list of questions and then vet them for suitability – he recruited five people in this way, although one was an undercover police officer.

He was more at home online than he was in the real world.

However, there is not a binary division between the internet and normal life.

A series of extreme right-wing terror attacks have been spawned online and carried out with an online audience watching, including the Christchurch attack in New Zealand that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

FKD, despite having such young leading figures, has generated a series of prosecutions around the world involving older people.

In the UK, a teenager from Rugby called Paul Dunleavy – who was recruited by the Cornish boy – was jailed last year for planning a terrorist attack.

The very nature of these quickly constructed organisations, which employ encrypted apps to communicate and recruit, allows such disparate individuals to come together.

This danger comes from having such groups of people encouraging one other’s worst tendencies.

Indeed, the culture of groups like FKD is to make people feel guilty and worthless if they do not act on their violent beliefs.

The Cornish boy, for example, praised the Christchurch attacker.

He encouraged members to be “active” and said that “failure of activity will result in expulsion”.

He continuously posted violent and hateful material. One document stated that “every resistance group uses assassination (murder) and torture (rape) as weapons against the agents of the State”.

Following the boy’s sentencing at the Old Bailey, Ch Supt Jim Pearce, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “The young age of the offender combined with the extreme hatred displayed and the quick progression of his role within the worldwide extremist group brings into sharp focus the real and clear danger of online radicalisation.”

Bromham rape: E-fit appeal over attack on boy, 12, in 2018

An e-fit has been released after a boy with “great courage” recently reported being raped in a car more than two years ago.

The boy, then aged 12, was grabbed by a man while he was running in Bromham, near Bedford, in late August 2018.

He was taken to a car and managed to escape after about 15 minutes and ran home, Bedfordshire Police said.

The man was described as being in his late 30s or early 40s, about 6ft tall, with ginger hair and stubble.

He wore black tracksuit bottoms and a zip-up hoodie, and it was believed the car was a black five-door Ford Focus or Fiesta.

Police said the boy was running towards Bromham Bridge from Bedford at about 18:00 BST on the day of the attack.

Det Con Rebecca Goodman said: “It has taken great courage for a young boy to come forward now and report this shocking incident.

“This happened on a warm summer’s evening in a popular walking spot, and although we appreciate this was some time ago we hope something may stick in your memory about that evening.

“Do you recognise the man pictured?

“Did you see anyone acting suspiciously, or a boy running, and can now help us piece together the events of that evening?

“Any information, however small, could help us to progress this investigation.”

Rachel Johnston: Probe into death after all teeth removed

A “happy and alert” disabled woman died after having all her teeth removed due to severe decay, an inquest heard.

Rachel Johnston, 49, began bleeding after being discharged from hospital and was “slumped” in bed at her care home the next day, her mother said.

There was a “significant delay” by NHS 111 practitioners in getting information to carers that evening, the hearing in Worcestershire was told.

Ms Johnston died just over two weeks later of a hypoxic brain injury.

Diana Johnston, Rachel’s mother, said she accompanied her daughter to Kidderminster Hospital for the operation on 26 October 2018.

In a statement, Dr Sarah Foy, a special care dentist, said severe tooth decay had led to a “hopeless prognosis” and all needed to be removed because Ms Johnston was at risk of pain and infection.

Four hours after the procedure, she was considered to be of a “happy disposition” and discharged to Pirton Grange Care Home near Worcester.

Mrs Johnston, of Evesham, said in a statement her daughter was singing during the journey but fell asleep 10 minutes before arrival.

“I said ‘Mummy will see you first thing tomorrow’,” she said in a statement. “I left her thinking she was in safe hands.”

The next day staff said the 49-year-old had been bleeding in her mouth, and when Mrs Johnston arrived at the care home, her daughter was “slumped to one side and had funny, heavy breathing and her tongue swollen”.

“It seemed wrong to me and asked them to call a doctor. They said they would but it would be a little while.”

Instead, they phoned NHS’ 111 service that evening at 19:00. It was not until 20:34 they received a call back from out of hours provider Care UK.

Nurse practitioner Alison Trueman said she assessed the situation and told the carer to call back if Ms Johnston’s condition worsened.

She said she was not aware of her deteriorating condition, adding “she did not detect urgency” in the caller’s voice.

“Do I wish I’d made a full assessment of her consciousness and breathing difficulties? Yes, of course I do,” said Ms Trueman.

“I wish I’d done things differently but at the time I went with the information given.”

The following day, worried carers called an ambulance to take Ms Johnston to hospital.

“It was like she wasn’t my Rachel any more and she was fighting for her life,” Mrs Johnston said.

Her life support was switched off on 2 November and she died 10 days later with her mother beside her.

The hearing continues.

Pandoras Box opened over UK-EU vaccine row, says Gove

The EU’s threat to restrict vaccine exports to Northern Ireland has opened a “Pandora’s Box” regarding post-Brexit arrangements, Michael Gove has said.

He told MPs an urgent “reset” was needed to the Northern Ireland protocol governing checks on GB-NI trade.

The agreement was “not working” and NI businesses and families were suffering too much “disruption and interference”.

While the UK did not want to “ditch” it, it “reserved the right” to do what it must to protect Northern Ireland.

Unionist parties in Northern Ireland have called for the protocol – which came into force on 1 January – to be scrapped, saying it has created a border down the Irish Sea and threatened NI’s place within the UK.

The protocol was designed to avoid checks along the border between Northern Ireland – which unlike the rest of the UK is continuing to follow many of the EU’s rules – and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU.

But after checks were introduced on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain, some exporters have scaled back deliveries or stopped fulfilling orders altogether, blaming the additional paperwork and costs involved.

And following last month’s vaccine row, graffiti opposing the Irish Sea border appeared in some loyalist areas of Northern Ireland, while some staff involved in inspecting goods were stood down over security fears.

Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove said the EU’s threat to invoke Article 16 of the protocol to control shipments of vaccines from the continent to Northern Ireland – amid concerns of a shortage in Europe – had been a mistake.

The European Commission, he said, owed its members an explanation why it didn’t follow the dispute mechanism procedures in the protocol and consult with other member states, particularly Ireland, before acting.

Asked by Tory MP David Jones whether the “bad blood” between the two sides would cause long-term damage, Mr Gove said it would be “better” if the EU revoked the regulation in place allowing it to invoke Article 16 in future.

“The Pandora’s Box has been opened and that is concerning,” he told the European Scrutiny Committee.

“One of the consequences of opening that Pandora’s Box has been the unfortunate effects we referred to on the ground in Northern Ireland.”

Asked by a number of Conservative MPs whether the EU’s actions were a reasonable cause for the UK to seek to suspend the protocol or to axe it entirely, Mr Gove said while it was not functioning smoothly, it could be “made to work”.

While he said progress in the Joint EU-UK Committee on the protocol’s implementation had not been as fast as he had liked, he hoped for better in talks with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in London on Thursday.

“There are disruptions and difficulties faced by Northern Ireland citizens in their daily lives,” he said. “They can be resolved within the context of the protocol. We don’t need to ditch it.

“But as the prime minister has spelt out, if we can’t make progress in resolving those issues, then the UK government has to reserve its rights.”

Bank Governor Bailey angry at criticism over regulatory role

The governor of the Bank of England has angrily rejected criticism that he was slow to make changes in his previous role overseeing City regulation.

Andrew Bailey was head of the Financial Conduct Authority when a high-risk bond scheme collapsed two years ago.

Nearly 12,000 people invested £236m in London Capital & Finance before it went under.

A report last year said the regulator had failed to effectively supervise the firm.

The author of the report, former Court of Appeal judge Elizabeth Gloster, told Parliament last week that the slow pace of internal reforms at the FCA was not an excuse for what had happened to investors in LC&F.

Mr Bailey told a Parliamentary committee on Monday that he strongly disagreed with her view.

In particular he rejected a suggestion he had been among executives, asking not to be named in the report’s conclusions, saying: “I am probably sounding quite angry now, and I am.”

Mr Bailey said Lady Justice Gloster had described the regulator as a “broken machine”.

“She sort of suggested to you that if only we had told the staff to pull their socks up, the problem would have gone away,” Mr Bailey told the Treasury Committee.

“She even at one point in the report suggested that maybe it was a mistake to do the programmes of change, which I just fundamentally disagree with,” he said.

He said that the regulator at the time had no way of collating concerns raised by investors from the 200,000 calls a year it receives from the public.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) said last year that the majority of people who invested in LC&F would not be eligible for compensation.

Government faces fresh rebellion from Tory MPs over anti-genocide law

The government is facing a fresh rebellion in the House of Commons over plans to give British courts the right to decide if a country is committing genocide.

Ministers oppose the plans and have offered rebel MPs a so-called compromise, which would boost the ability of parliamentary select committees to consider genocide allegations.

But MPs leading the rebellion have rejected the government’s alternative as “meaningless”, saying select committees can already look at genocide claims and their rulings can be ignored by ministers.

The parliamentary battle will come to a head on Tuesday during a vote on the Trade Bill.

Last week, peers in the House of Lords heavily defeated the government and inserted an amendment – proposed by Lord Alton – giving the High Court the right to hear genocide cases.

Normally genocide allegations are heard only by international courts, but campaigners say this happens rarely because cases are often vetoed in the United Nations’ security council.

They want British courts to hear genocide cases so that persecuted minorities, such as the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China, can have their situation considered by a court of law.

A legal opinion by senior barristers at Essex Court Chambers has already concluded there was a “very credible case” that the Chinese government was committing genocide against the Uighurs.

The government has now put its name to an amendment originally proposed by Tory MP Sir Bob Neill – the chairman of the Justice Select Committee – which would give a greater role for select committees to consider genocide cases.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the government shared people’s grave concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

“However, [the rebel] amendment could embroil the courts in the formulation of trade policy and conduct of international relations and risks undermining the separation of powers,” he said.

“The amendment put forward by the chair of the select committee, which the government will be supporting, addresses the concerns raised by the parliamentarians to take a stand on credible reports of genocide by a prospective trade partner while ensuring a specific duty on government to act.”

But on Monday, 355 Uighur survivors wrote to Sir Bob, urging him to abandon his amendment.

They wrote: “Mr Neill, we beg you. Withdraw your amendment. Please allow our people the opportunity to receive justice.”

Nusrat Ghani, the Conservative MP who is helping to organise the rebellion, said the government’s compromise was “meaningless”.

She said select committees could already prepare reports on genocide, but there was no obligation on the government to act.

Ms Ghani added: “As the government has said repeatedly, the only time they will accept, use and recognise the term genocide is when it has been discussed, debated and evaluated and come to a determination in a judicial setting.

“Without the courts, the UK government – just as it has always done over the last 75 years – will not accept the term genocide, so we need a court process engaged in this.”

Lord Alton also said MPs and peers who would be involved in making the government’s compromise work were opposed it.

“Both select committees have said they would not wish to take on this role without having the opportunity to then refer the issue to the High Court,” he said.

“If the government were serious about the compromise, they would incorporate it within this proposal.”

Lord Alton said MPs and peers were not impartial like a judge and would not have the time to consider genocide cases.

He added: “I am not surprised that members of the Foreign Affairs Committee have been so outspoken in saying they would not be used as a fig leaf.”

The former Conservative leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, has tabled a new amendment, which would allow MPs or peers to refer genocide cases to the courts.

“The government has constantly stated that only a court can decide on genocide and call it genocide and yet they are blocking any access to the UK court,” he said.

“The Foreign Office particularly doesn’t want to do this because they are worried it will upset the Chinese.”

The SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, said the government’s compromise was a “wrecking amendment”.

He added: “It is about trying to create that distraction from what we should be doing which is passing the amendment that has come from the Lords.

“I would ask all parliamentarians not to be seduced by what is a distraction and wrecking amendment.”

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Policing issues identified before attack

Police were told of shortcomings in a terror response plan months before the Manchester Arena attack, an inquiry has heard.

The police inspectorate warned in November 2016 that “an over-reliance” on the officer in charge of the response could see them overwhelmed.

Policing experts believe that is what happened after the May 2017 attack.

A former inspector told the inquiry Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was urged to “raise its game” at the time.

The public inquiry into the atrocity, which killed 22 people as they left an Ariana Grande concert, has been hearing about inspections of GMP around the time of the attack.

It has previously heard only one paramedic was in the City Room foyer, where bomber Salman Abedi detonated his device, for the first 40 minutes after the blast and the first fire engine arrived more than two hours after the explosion.

Andrew Buchan, who worked as an inspector with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, said it was identified in 2016 that GMP’s plan was “very tactically focused”.

But he said it did not go into detail about working with other agencies and had placed “an over-reliance” on the “force duty inspector (FDO) to lead their response to a terrorist attack”.

The inspectorate’s report said the number of tasks the officer would be “expected to perform in all likelihood are so many that it may be some will not be completed or at least in the order expected”, the inquiry heard.

It said the force had acknowledged that the pressures the officer would be placed under would “bring its own challenges”, but the matter was left unresolved.

It added that “such apparent vagueness may cause confusion or doubt in a live scenario” and there was a need “to provide the FDO with more immediate support or resources to assist with all the functions expected of that role”.

Mr Buchan said the watchdog spoke to four duty inspectors at GMP, who said they had received no counter-terrorism training and “felt ill prepared for that eventuality” but would draw on the experience of other critical incidents.

The inquiry heard unarmed officers, who were likely to be the first on the scene, were said to be unaware of GMP’s counter-terrorism plans and did not know where to find them.

It was told that none of the officers who spoke to the watchdog knew exactly what they would have to do in the event of a terrorist incident.

The inquiry heard staff in GMP’s control room had received no specific training to help them do their job during a terror attack.

Mr Buchan said the force had been told it “needed to raise its game” in testing and training control room and unarmed staff before “the awful time when a terrorist attack actually happens”.

He said that in November 2016, he personally spoke to a senior GMP officer to share the shortcomings found in their inspection report, which he added were issues found in other forces throughout England and Wales.

The final report into UK counter-terrorism policing was never publically published due to national security reasons.

The inquiry continues.

BBC licence fee to rise by £1.50 to £159 from April

The annual TV licence fee is to increase by £1.50, from £157.50 to £159, from 1 April 2021.

It is the final – and lowest – annual increase under a deal between the BBC and the government that has seen the fee rise in line with inflation every year since 2017.

The government must decide how much a TV licence will cost from 2022 onwards.

The increase comes eight months after about three million over-75s lost their entitlement to free TV licences.

The new fee works out at £3.06 per week or £13.25 per month.

In 2019-20, it raised about £3.5bn to pay for BBC services.

Licence-fee evasion rose from 6.57% to 7.25% last year, according to the latest statistics.

The government had been considering whether non-payment should stop being a criminal offence.

Last month, it decided not to go ahead with decriminalisation – but that it would “remain under active consideration”.

Also last month, new BBC chairman Richard Sharp said the licence fee was the “least worst” way of funding the BBC.

But he had an “open mind” about how the corporation should be funded in the future.

And it “may be worth reassessing” the current system.

RSPCA rescues 45 dogs from dilapidated Ceredigion farm

Forty-five dogs have been rescued from a dilapidated farm in Ceredigion..

The RSPCA said the dogs, ranging from 11 weeks to 10 years old, were suffering from a poor diet, lack of shelter and lack of parasite control.

It said its officers had visited the farm on four occasions before the owner accepted the “sheer quantity of dogs” meant the situation was “completely out of control”.

Some, including puppy Maggie, have already been rehomed.

The dogs – including Huntaways, German Shepherds and Collies – were rescued after visits by the animal charity in January.

“These poor dogs were kept in inappropriate conditions at a dilapidated farm building,” said RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper.

“Thankfully, the owner worked with us and we were able to get these dogs out of this setting and into a number of different animal centres. We’re so proud we were able to rescue these dogs.

“Some pups have already found new homes – but many of the dogs face a period of rehabilitation and care to get them ready for rehoming.”

The dogs have been taken to numerous rescue shelters around Wales – in Swansea, Newport and Conwy – and to centres as far afield as Shrewsbury, Birmingham and Taunton.

The RSPCA said that some of the recued dogs had gone into the care of the Dogs Trust.

Overtly sexual cow blocked as Facebook ad

The owner of a small digital photo gallery has had pictures of wildlife, landscapes and buildings blocked by Facebook for supposedly containing “overtly sexual” content.

Examples include a photo of the England cricket team in a huddle and one of a cow standing in a field.

The blocks happen when Mike Hall tries to use the images as Facebook ads.

Mr Hall said there was “nothing risque” about any of the 400 images on his business page.

Facebook told the BBC it was investigating the issue.

The Winchester-based photographer’s other banned ad images include:

At one point, his entire account was suspended from placing any ads at all.

He said on each occasion he had appealed, but had not had a response, and was unable to make contact with anyone at Facebook.

After the BBC contacted Facebook about the matter, the ads were reinstated.

“When you’re running a small business, or any business where you’re trying to figure out what’s gone wrong, you can’t have an arbitrary process with no-one to talk to,” Mr Hall said.

“When I set up my account with Facebook I had to verify my business with them – but after that it fell into an abyss.”

Google, on the other hand, had offered him a one-to-one clinic about how to navigate its advertising options, he added.

However, Mr Hall does not intend to abandon his Facebook efforts.

“I’ll persevere,” he said.

“You can’t rely on Google alone, you need as many channels as possible – especially during the pandemic when you can’t promote your work in public spaces or cafes.”

Advertising makes up the vast majority of Facebook’s revenue, and analysts say a large percentage of ad spend comes from small businesses rather than big brands.

The firm has also had to adapt its policies on carrying political ads, particularly around election times.

The tech giant blamed a “technical error” when it blocked thousands of campaign ads taken out both by Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s teams in the run-up to the US presidential election in November 2020.

In 2019 it removed an advert by the Conservative Party which featured an image of a BBC News story, but misrepresented the content.