Wigan student with suicide bomber manual was an "obsessional" Muslim convert

A Wigan student who downloaded videos on how to make a suicide vest laden with shrapnel was an “obsessional” Muslim convert, a court heard

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 2:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 8:37 am
Liam Fenn

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

The 21-year-old from Ince was today beginning a four years and eight months' prison sentence after admitting to terror-related activities.

He told police officers he sent emails to an account attributed to proscribed 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.

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Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square

Fenn was given a clear warning about the dangers of viewing and downloading extremist material and taking advice from unknown people over the internet, but he later admitted he could not stop himself.

From November 2017 onwards he repeatedly accessed an “enormous volume” of such material and used encrypted technology, Manchester Crown Court was told.

On January 29 this year he was arrested and a number of electronic devices were seized from his bedroom.

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

Fenn also accessed documents on how to conduct attacks using a vehicle as a weapon and how to prepare for a knife attack, as well as posting a video online containing footage of speakers who praised so-called Islamic State and encouraged acts of terrorism.

Last month he pleaded guilty to eight counts of possessing a document likely to be useful to a terrorist and one count of recklessly 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 over a range of diverse topics 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 Qaida, said Mr Rose.

Sentencing on Tuesday, Judge Patrick Field QC said: “It is urged upon me that you became interested in this objectionable material as a consequence of your conversion to Islam and your obsessive interest in that religion.

“But it is clear to me your interests strayed beyond the purely religious.

“You started to delve into and to become embroiled in material concerned with and extolling violent Islamic extremism – material that promotes mass murder and glorifies terrorist incidents that have taken place.”

It was accepted Fenn did not act on the information he gathered and had no involvement with others.

But Judge Field told him: “I am satisfied that you have shown poor judgment and that you were drawn into this behaviour by your obsessional behaviour.

“These are, in my judgment, direct consequences of your autism.

“You are not without responsibility, however, because I am also satisfied that you had an awareness what you was doing was wrong and you were involved in dangerous risk-taking.”

He classified Fenn as an “offender of particular concern” and ordered he must serve an additional 12 months on licence when he is released from custody.

Fenn must also serve two-thirds of his sentence in jail before he can be considered for release by the Parole Board.

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