Wigan man downloaded terrorist material despite previous police warning

A man downloaded an instructional video on how to make an explosives vest laden with shrapnel despite being warned by police two years earlier about accessing such material, a court has heard.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 6:04 pm
Updated Monday, 28th September 2020, 6:38 pm
Liam Fenn, 21, from Wigan,was referred to the Government’s counter-terror programme Prevent following comments he made at his sixth form college to a youth mentor in March 2017.

Liam Fenn, 21, from Wigan,was referred to the Government’s counter-terror programme Prevent following comments he made at his sixth form college to a youth mentor in March 2017.

Fenn went on to tell police officers he had sent emails to banned UK-based terror group Al Muhajiroun seeking advice on “how best to conduct jihad” and asking whether he should travel to Medina to study or to Syria to fight.

Alex Leach, prosecuting, said Fenn was warned by police about the dangers of taking advice from unknown people over the internet and of viewing and downloading material that would breach terror laws.

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On January 29 this year, he was arrested at his home and a number of electronic devices were seized from his bedroom, Manchester Crown Court was told.

Also recovered were a number of books printed in Arabic, including Defence of the Muslim Lands and My Life with the Taliban, as well as a black flag with Arabic writing and various military clothing.

Examination of his devices revealed he had downloaded an “enormous volume” of Islamic extremist material since November 2017, the court was told.

Among the downloads were three videos which provided a detailed demonstration of how to manufacture an explosive vest.

Fenn also accessed documents on how to conduct attacks using a vehicle as a weapon, how to prepare for a knife attack and counter-surveillance tactics.

He also posted online a video containing footage of speakers who praised Islamic State and encouraged acts of terrorism.

The defendant was arrested again on March 24, and was subsequently charged with a string of offences.

Last month, he pleaded to eight counts of possessing a document likely to be useful to a terrorism and one count of encouraging terrorism on various dates between March 2018 and January this year.

Alex Rose, defending, said his client was suffering from undiagnosed autism at the time of the offences, and had a mental breakdown following the death of his father when he was aged 13.

That led him to finding “solace” in becoming insular as he became obsessional on a number of subjects including religion – starting from Buddhism, moving on to Hinduism and Sikhism, and ending with Islam.

His questioning nature sent him on a “pursuit of truth” which focused on the more extreme aspects of religion and carried on into terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

Mr Rose said Fenn did not glorify the material he downloaded and had no interest in carrying out terrorist acts or persuading others to do so.

The court heard Fenn now had insight into his behaviour and he recognised he had been in a “very bad place”.

Fenn, who has no previous convictions, told his solicitor he was “happy” to be arrested as he was “lost in a virtual world” in his bedroom.

Judge Patrick Field QC will sentence Fenn on Tuesday.