A 16-year-old convicted neo-Nazi has avoided prison time in the UK after a court handed down a 24-month youth rehabilitation order at London’s Old Bailey criminal court on Monday.

The child, who can’t be named for legal reasons, pled guilty to 12 offences, including disseminating terrorist documents and possession of terrorist material. 

Having gained possession of instructions for building explosives at the age of 13, he went on to collect terrorist material that he shared with other individuals online, as part of far-right chat groups, all from his grandmother’s house in Cornwall.

The boy engaged in the criminal behaviour between 2018 and 2019 and attempted to conceal his identity online. By the summer of 2019, when he was just 14, he had become the British leader of a neo-Nazi cell called the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD).

Established in late 2018, the FKD used online messaging platforms to recruit young members and spread fascist ideology. The group believed that society would eventually break out into racial warfare, allowing them to create a neo-Nazi state.

In 2020 three other members were prosecuted for crimes linked to the group. In February, a counter-terrorism investigation resulted in the confession of an American man who’d considered burning down a synagogue. Later that month a US solider admitted to distributing materials about explosives and weapons of mass destruction. Lithuania police also charged a teenager, believed to be from the group, with planting a bomb, which didn’t detonate, outside an office in Vilnius.

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The group was outlawed by the UK government after the police arrested the child, and Home Secretary Priti Patel made it a criminal offence to either be a member of or encourage others to join FKD.

Sentencing the offender, who is now 16, Judge Mark Dennis QC stated that he had “entered an online world of wicked prejudice” that required rehabilitation lest he reoffend and fall into a “spiral of ever-lengthening terms of incarceration”.

Rehabilitation was deemed more effective than a custodial sentence, as the child was viewed as “vulnerable” and having suffered an “abnormal childhood” due to his “restricted and isolated” life.

Taking a wider look at the impact of the case, the judge warned that it revealed a “deeply concerning” picture of “the actions, words and mindset of teenagers.”

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