Devon

Twitter bomb hoax teenager from Plymouth sentenced

Delta Air Lines plane Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The teenager sent bomb hoaxes to Delta Air Lines and American Airlines via Twitter

A boy who tweeted bomb hoaxes to US airlines and launched cyber attacks has been spared a jail term.

The 16-year-old from Plymouth, who can not be named for legal reasons, admitted three offences relating to cyber attacks on SeaWorld in Florida and Devon and Cornwall Police.

He had denied two charges of sending bomb hoaxes in 2015 but was found guilty in July.

He was given a two year rehabilitation order at Plymouth Youth Court.

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District Judge Diana Baker said the teenager knew what he was doing in the persistent cyber attacks, which involved a "significant level of planning and sophistication", and she had been minded to jail him for 12 months.

However she concluded a detention sentence would "destroy him" and imposed the rehabilitation order with conditions, including 120 hours of reparation projects with the youth offending team.

Family hell

"I think you got carried away, you thought you were cool and clever", she said.

Judge Baker told the court the boy had put his family through hell, adding she thought it was unhealthy for someone his age to spend so much time on his own with his laptop in his bedroom.

She said he could not have his computer back or any associated items.

The boy, who cried as the judge considered a jail sentence, said: "I am really sorry for what I have done. I did not know how serious it was. I want to say sorry to my family."

He said his dreams of joining the RAF were unlikely to happen now, but he hoped to study computer science.

SeaWorld estimated the attacks had cost them about $465,000 (£353,000) with an additional indirect cost of $130,000 (£99,000) for improving cyber security, the prosecution said.

Image caption The teenager sent the threats through Twitter

The court previously heard how the boy sent a tweet to American Airlines on 13 February 2015 which read: "One of those lovely Boeing airplanes has a tick, tick, ticking in it. Hurry gentlemen, the clock is ticking."

A similar tweet was also sent to Delta Air Lines on the same day.

The teenager was found guilty of two offences under the Criminal Law Act relating to the communication of bomb threats and pleaded guilty to three offences under Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act relating to denial of service attacks.

He had told the court he was "fighting for animal rights" when he "joined up with other people" to target websites "to do with dolphin hunting".

In addition to SeaWorld and Devon and Cornwall Police, the teenager committed cyber attacks against the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, Iraq's foreign ministry, the Chinese government and other international bodies between 2014 and 2015.

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