A 17-year-old youth has been found guilty of preparing for acts of neo-Nazi terrorism after researching how to convert a blank-firing gun into a live weapon.
The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, told police he was “a nine to 10” on a scale with “full on Nazi Hitler” as a 10.
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court deliberated for more than 15 hours over four days before unanimously convicting the boy of preparing for terrorist acts between April and September last year.
The defendant closed his eyes as the verdict was delivered, then sat down with his head propped on his hand as members of his family wept in the nearby public gallery.
The youth, from Rugby, Warwickshire, told the court he had not intended any act of terrorism, and “had existed in an echo chamber” of far-right chat rooms.
At the start of a month-long re-trial, prosecutor Matthew Brook said the evidence showed the teenager wanted to create a firearm capable of “smashing heads” after joining the so-called Feuerkrieg Division (FKD).
The youth, who was convicted on Friday, saw his original trial halted in March due to the national Covid-19 lockdown.
In his opening speech to jurors, Mr Brook said the boy had praised the terrorist who carried out a mass shooting last year in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people at two mosques.
Mr Brook told the jury panel: “In this case, the evidence will prove that the defendant became radicalised so he fully believed in extreme right-wing ideology.
“He came to believe an ideology which thinks a race war is coming, an ideology which believes its followers should bring about a race war, should accelerate its start, so that the white race can become supreme.
“He came to believe in an ideology which praises terrorists who carry out mass shootings, like the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, and called the perpetrators of such terrorist massacres ‘saints’.”
The court was told that the boy, who had admitted possessing documents likely to be useful to a terrorist, researched how to convert a blank-firing gun and had offered advice to members of neo-Nazi chat groups.
Jurors also heard the youth was admitted to an online neo-Nazi grouping after completing a “test” survey in which he expressed a hatred for Jews.
In one series of chatroom messages, the defendant said he was an administrator for a group named League of Nationalists, which was “probably” not going anywhere, but added: “Whatever happens I’m going to have a local unit.
“I’m working on the propaganda and the weapons. I need men.”
Following the youth’s arrest last September, it emerged he had asked an adult friend for advice on where he could buy a blank-firing gun.
In interviews conducted around a fortnight after his home was raided, he was asked to explain gun-making instructions found on his phone, and knives and a home-made gun stock seized from his bedroom.
A rubber “practice” knife, a face-mask featuring an image of a skull, and a piece of aluminium pipe were also recovered, along with sketches of gun designs.
Mr Brook said of the boy’s exchanges with other members of neo-Nazi forums: “They had discussed their extreme dislike for some racial groups and he had also talked to them about making firearms and specifically about using blank-firing guns as a basis to build functional weapons.
“He said to the police that he had held right-wing views for a number of years, but he had recently been talking to more extreme people.
“He claimed that, although he had been discussing with these people about converting guns, it had in fact all been a fantasy and he had not done anything in the real world.
“When asked to put himself on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being, in the police’s words, ‘full-on Nazi Hitler’ – when asked to put himself on that scale – he said he was a nine to 10.”
Judge Paul Farrer QC remanded the defendant in custody until a sentencing hearing on November 6.
He told the boy’s barrister: “There’ll have to be a sentencing exercise to embrace not only this count but also the other nine charges he pleaded guilty to in relation to the nine expedient documents – the terrorism documents, as within the Terrorism Act.
“He’s still only 17 years old, he was 16 at the relevant time.
“While the nature of the sentence may be inevitable, the court is going to benefit from having some input from the youth offending team.”