Individual Sentenced to Life in Prison for Attack Plot

Jan 15, 2024 | Threat Analysis, Threat Landscape

Author: Oliver Hair ASyI,
Threat Analyst

Read Time: 3 minutes 

On 12 January 2024, an individual was sentenced to life in prison for plotting a “revenge” mass shooting at his former school in Worle, North Somerset. The individual was also convicted of weapons charges linked to the construction of homemade weapons including pistols, submachine guns, a shotgun, ammunition, Improvised Explosive Devices, and grenades. The individual had reportedly written a 1,700-word document outlining who he intended to murder, including teachers at his former school and police officers at the headquarters of Avon and Somerset Police. The individual reportedly had a fascination with mass killings, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, and the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.[1]

During his arrest in November 2022, the individual reportedly attempted to take his own life with a pistol, before threatening armed officers with the firearm. Police officers later found “body armour, a police uniform, and a deactivated hand grenade at the property.[2] More than 1,000 unfired bullets for a range of different firearms were also seized, along with Improvised Explosive Devices and a large quantity of assorted chemicals.[3] The individual was not convicted of any terror offences, most likely because the individual did not intend to advance a political, religious, racial or ideological cause by conducting the attack. [4]

Assessment

 

  • Although the individual in the headline incident referred to above was not convicted of any terror offences, his stated intent and plot is consistent with methodologies used by terrorist actors in the UK.
    • In the medium term, it is highly likely that certain individuals in the UK would move away from traditional terrorism ideologies (E.g., Islamist, Extreme Right-Wing, etc.) and in some cases adhere to no clear ideology or ideologies that overlap, converge, or even in some cases contradict, as a result of their own perceived frustrations and injustices.
      • E.g., In the year ending 31 March 2023, the category “vulnerability present but no ideology or CT risk” accounted for the largest proportion of referrals to the UK government’s Prevent programme. The Prevent programme is intended to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.[5]
    • It is almost certain that terrorist actors in the UK would have the intent to conduct firearms attacks in the UK. However, it is highly likely that UK firearms and ammunition legislation, and the actions of police and intelligence services have significantly reduced the capability of terrorist actors to access firearms in the UK.
      • Terrorist actors have previously demonstrated the intent to conduct attacks using Firearms in the UK, including:
        • 2023 – Essex – An individual was charged with terrorism and firearms offences following an investigation relating to “extreme right-wing terrorism”. The individual was charged with single counts of preparation of terrorism, possession of a prohibited firearm, and possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate.[6]
        •  2022 – London – An Islamist terrorist actor was intercepted whilst in a taxi from Brighton to Lewisham, South London, having arranged to purchase a firearm. The perpetrator was later sentenced to life in prison for preparing to conduct a terrorist attack against a Christian speaker, Hatun Tash, at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.[7]
        • 2016 – UK – In October 2016, the then UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Mark Rowley (now Commissioner of the Met Police) revealed that half of the UK terrorist plots that had been disrupted in recent years involved terrorist actors who had tried to acquire guns.[8] Media reporting suggested that five of the 10 terrorist attacks foiled by UK police and security services in 2015-16 involved attempts to access firearms.[9]
        • 2016 – Birstall – An Extreme Right-Wing terrorist murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in a Firearms and Bladed Weapons attack. Experts suggest that the perpetrator used a sawn-off Weirauch .22 hunting rifle that had initially been legally owned by a pest controller before it was stolen from his car in August 2015. According to the police, the rifle likely passed through a number of hands before it reached the perpetrator.[10]
        • 2014 – London – Two university students were convicted after plotting an Islamic State-inspired attack in London. The individuals plotted to kill police, soldiers, and civilians in a drive-by attack using a moped. Official records show that the individuals had acquired “a working firearm and ammunition” from a pair of criminal individuals.[11]
        • 2013 – London – Two Islamist terrorists conducted a Vehicle as a Weapon and Bladed Weapons attack, killing a member of the British military, Lee Rigby. The perpetrators used a vehicle to ram the victim before attacking him with knives. One of the perpetrators had acquired a handgun which, although it did not work, “was to be used at the scene to keep the public at bay and to threaten the armed officers when they arrived”.[12]
      • It is likely that the construction of homemade weapons would continue to emerge as a vector of terrorism threat in the UK in the long term. The UK has witnessed a growing number of incidents and arrests linked to the production of 3D-printed firearms in recent years. In 2022, authorities seized 17 3D-printed firearms, an increase from three in 2021.[13]
        • It is almost certain that terrorist actors in the UK would have the intent to conduct attacks against schools due to the major media coverage any such attack would receive, given the large number of children and/or young adults typically gathered at such sites. In February 2023, Matt Jukes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing, revealed that police had witnessed a “real threat” of teenagers plotting on schools in the UK.[14]
        • It is almost certain that terrorist actors in the UK would have the intent to target police stations and/or the officers within them due to their symbolic value as part of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and as highly visible representatives of the UK government.
        • Terrorist actors in the UK have previously demonstrated the intent to target police stations including:
          • 2023 – Newcastle – A teenager was sentenced to four years in prison for plotting an Extreme Right-Wing terror attack after carrying out hostile reconnaissance of Fourth Banks police station in Newcastle. The individual had previously researched ways to build explosives. He had previously told his Prevent mentor that police buildings needed to be bombed in order to overthrow governments.[15]
          • 2022 – Essex – A man pleaded guilty to plotting an Islamist-inspired terror attack allegedly targeting the police and military. He had taken steps to obtain a knife online and carried out hostile reconnaissance at police stations.[16]
        •  Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 15 January 2024

        PHIA Scale

        The “Probability Yardstick” (below) is a standardised instrument used to provide professional intelligence assessments. Judgements made using the yardstick are relative and reflect the analyst’s confidence in their findings and assessments.

          • Almost Certain: An event is assessed to have a greater than 90% chance of occurring.
          • Highly Likely: An event is assessed to have a 76% to 90% chance of occurring.
          • Likely: An event is assessed to have a 55% to 75% chance of occurring.
          • Realistic Possibility: An event is assessed to have a 40% to 54% chance of occurring.
          • Unlikely: An event is assessed to have a 25% to 39% chance of occurring.
          • Highly Unlikely: An event is assessed to have an 10% to 24% chance of occurring.
          • Remote Chance: An event is assessed to have a less than 10% chance of occurring.

          Time Spans

            • Short Term: 0 – 6 Months.
            • In the next 12 months.
            • Medium Term: 12 months – 5 Years.
            • Long Term: 5+ Years.
        End Notes

        [1] Reed Wischhusen jailed for planning ‘revenge’ mass shooting – BBC News

        [2] Reed Wischhusen said he tried to ‘provoke’ police into killing him – BBC News

        [3] Reed Wischhusen jailed for planning ‘revenge’ mass shooting – BBC News

        [4] Ibid; Terrorism | The Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk)

        [5] New Statistics Show Increase in Prevent Referrals – Pool Reinsurance

        [6] Essex teenager appears in court over ‘extreme right-wing terrorism’ plot | ITV News Anglia

        [7] Edward Little: Sentence increased for Hyde Park gun attack plotter – BBC News

        [8] project_safte_uk.pdf (flemishpeaceinstitute.eu)

        [9] Police fear terrorists using UK black market to buy weapons for Paris-style gun attack | The Independent | The Independent

        [10] vrede_syntheserapport_safte_lr.pdf (flemishpeaceinstitute.eu)

        [11] Two convicted over moped drive-by London terror plot | Crime | The Guardian; R v Hassane and others Sentencing remarks (judiciary.uk)

        [12] R -v- Adebolajo and Adebowale Sentencing remarks (judiciary.uk)

        [13] 3D printed guns found in Scotland for first time – BBC News

        [14] Counter-terror chief reveals ‘real threat’ of school terror plots | UK security and counter-terrorism | The Guardian

        [15] Gateshead student sentenced for plotting to blow up Newcastle police station | ITV News Tyne Tees

        [16] Teenager admits planning terrorist attack in London | Metropolitan Police

        [17] Two British students jailed for plotting Isis-style drive-by shootings | UK news | The Guardian

         

        Author: Oliver Hair ASyI,
        Threat Analyst

        Read Time: 3 minutes

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