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October 2, 2015

Judge rejects media bid to name child terrorist who plotted Anzac Day attack

By PA Mediapoint

"Naming and shaming" Britain's youngest terrorist would only have "a limited deterrent effect", a judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Saunders explained there was also a risk that in some parts of society the 15-year-old defendant would be "glorified for what he has done".

The boy was sentenced to a least five years in custody for plotting an Anzac Day terror attack in Australia.

Over the course of nine days in March this year the then 14-year-old took on the role of "organiser and adviser" to an alleged Australian jihadist in a plot to murder police officers by beheading in Melbourne the following month.

The youngster, from Blackburn, Lancashire, exchanged more than 3,000 encrypted mobile app messages with 18-year-old Sevdet Besim after he became swiftly radicalised by online Islamic State propaganda.

A "major terrrorist plot in its late stages" was thwarted when authorities in Britain and Australia intervened and Besim was arrested in possession of a knife a week before the annual war remembrance event.

The youngster, now aged 15, was given a life sentence at Manchester Crown Court and told he would serve at least five years.

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Sitting at Manchester Crown Court, Saunders was responding to a press application to lift reporting restrictions which ban publication of details which could lead to the identification of the teenager who was detained today after he admitted inciting terrorism overseas.

He said: "I have decided that reporting restrictions should continue. That has not been an easy decision to reach because I accept that this is an important case which raises important questions of concern to the public.

"I accept the principle of open justice. This is an exceptional case because of the age of the defendant.

"I accept also that the public are more interested in reading about cases where the defendant and often his family are identified and attention can be drawn to the report of the case by photographs."

He added that the issues raised in the case "should be known about and talked about" but he said that on the other hand he had a duty to consider the welfare of the defendant.

The judge went on: "Rehabilitation into society is central to his welfare. He is making what appears to be good progress in the detention centre where he is at the moment and I hope he will continue to be.

"Those who have care of him there and other experts are of the opinion that (the defendant's) rehabilitation will be made less likely or more protracted if he is identified.

"I am satisfied that in this case there will only be a limited deterrent effect in naming and shaming, and that there is a risk that in some parts of our society he will be glorified for what he has done.

"That glorification is more likely to be effective if (the defendant) is identified and more likely to encourage others to do what he has done.

"I have had to carry out a balancing exercise not just by considering important statements of principle but what they mean in practice.

"Having carried out that exercise, I hope properly, I am satisfied that the balance is in favour of continuing the order."

On Thursday, the court heard that the defendant could be named by the press when he reached the age of 18.

Felicity McMahon, representing various media organisations, argued that not lifting restrictions would only postpone naming him for three years.

She submitted that the public had a right to know who had committed such a serious offence.

She said: "We are asking for a full public debate on all aspects of this. It is not just the name but who is this person as a whole."

James Pickup QC, defending the teenager, said an outweighing compelling reason to preserve anonymity was the welfare of the defendant at the present time and over the next three years.

On the evidence available, he had shown capacity to change and it was in the public interest that in time he is deradicalised and becomes "potentially a role model for young Muslims within his local community".

He said: "To that extent preserving his anonymity until he is 18 is critical. It is an absolute necessity."

Mr Pickup added that to associate the defendant's name with what is in the public domain would give him notoriety but also the potential to damage any prospect for rehabilitation.

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