Teenager Jailed Following Music Festival Terror Plot

Apr 22, 2024 | Threat Analysis, Threat Landscape

Author: Oliver Hair ASyI,
Threat Analyst

Read Time: 3 minutes 

On 15 April 2024, a 16-year-old was sentenced to seven years in prison for plotting to conduct an Islamist-inspired terrorist attack {1}. According to the prosecutor, the individual had developed an “Islamic extremist mindset” in late 2021 and intended to attack people he believed had insulted Islam {2}. The individual had researched the Isle of Wight Music Festival repeatedly as well as weapons, vehicles, and stab vests {3}. After dismissing the festival as a potential attack target, the individual later plotted to conduct a Bladed Weapons attack against individuals who worked with him at a specialist education provider {4}. Reporting suggests that the plot was foiled after the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) discovered messages relating to the alleged attack that was due to take place in July 2022 {5}. Counterterrorism officers arrested the teenager on 11 July 2022, and he was found carrying a knife and notes detailing aspects of his plot {6} {7}.

Event Assessment

    • The demonstrated intent to conduct a Bladed Weapons attack is representative of the current terrorism threat landscape in the UK. It is highly likely that any terrorist attack conducted in the UK would be conducted by an individual or small cell using a low-sophistication methodology. E.g., Bladed or Blunt Force Weapons, Vehicle as a Weapon, or Fire as a Weapon.
      • It is almost certain that terrorist actors would have the intent to conduct attacks against outdoor music festivals. This is due to the high number of attendees at festival events that are staged over large areas of land, and the symbolic value that would be associated with an attack against a high-profile event with global media coverage and VIP acts.
        • It is almost certain that Islamist terrorism remains the primary terrorism threat in the UK. It is highly likely that any terrorist attack against an outdoor music festival would be conducted by an Islamist-inspired individual due to the ideologically driven intent to conduct indiscriminate attacks against members of the public in the UK.
          • For further assessment on the threat posed to Outdoor Music Festivals, read Pool Re Solutions’ sector-specific threat assessment for Major Outdoor Music Festivals, here.
            • It is highly likely that teenagers and young adults will remain overly represented in both Prevent and Channel cases in the short term. In the year ending 31 March 2023, those aged 15 to 20 accounted for the largest proportion of referrals to the government’s Prevent programme, and those aged 14 and under accounted for the second largest proportion {8} {9}. Additionally, 2023 saw the highest ever number of under-18-year-olds arrested for terrorism-related offences including sharing terrorist propaganda and encouraging attacks {10}.
              • Although there have been no cases of a successful terrorist attack conducted by a child or teenager in the UK to date, children and teenagers have previously demonstrated the intent to conduct terrorist attacks and terrorism-related activity in the UK, including:
                  • 2024 – Leeds – A teenager was convicted of preparation of terrorist acts after plotting to kill at least 50 people by attacking government buildings and politicians’ houses. The individual had reportedly bought a number of chemicals on the internet and conducted experiments with explosives in his back garden. He also possessed computer files outlining how to make a 3D-printed assault rifle and a printer on which to make it {11}.
                    • 2023 – Keyleigh – A 17-year-old who adhered to an Extreme Right-Wing ideology was sentenced to 10 years in prison for offences including plotting a terrorist attack against a mosque. The perpetrator had conducted hostile reconnaissance at a mosque in Keighley, contacted a UK-based individual in order to buy a weapon, and written a “detailed plan for carrying out a terrorist attack” {12}.
                      • 2023 – Essex – A teenager was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting a terrorist attack against British soldiers and police officers. The individual had previously wanted to travel to Syria to join Islamic State and conducted hostile reconnaissance at an army barracks, a magistrate’s court, and railway station. His mother alerted the Prevent programme to concerns over his behaviour {13}.
                        • 2023 – Derbyshire – A teenager who adhered to an Extreme Right-Wing ideology was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in a young offender’s institution for encouraging terrorism and possession of material for terrorist purposes. The individual published a significant amount of far-right terrorist material online. One of the individual’s followers later conducted a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and had reportedly given the UK-based individual a shoutout before conducting the attack {14} {15}.
                      Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 22 April 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.

                      Author: Oliver Hair ASyI,
                      Threat Analyst

                      Read Time: 3 minutes

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