Anzac Day terror plot: Blackburn teenager admits inciting attack

Court sketch of teenage boy held over Australia terror plot Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption The boy had appeared in person at Westminster Magistrates' Court earlier this year

A teenager from Blackburn has admitted involvement in a terror plot targeting police at an Anzac Day remembrance parade in Australia.

The 15-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of inciting terrorism by encouraging the murder of police officers during the event in Melbourne in April. No attack ever took place.

The boy appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from Manchester Crown Court, speaking only to enter his plea.

He cannot be named for legal reasons.

'Enthusiasm for attack'

The Old Bailey heard the boy, who was 14 at the time, sent thousands of instant messages to 18-year-old Sevdet Besim in Australia over a 10-day period in March.

They both supported the Islamic State militant group, also known as IS or Isis, the court was told.

The boy sent a message to the older teenager suggesting he got his "first taste of beheading," prosecutor Paul Greaney QC said, to which Besim replied that this seemed "risky".

Anzac Day, held on 25 April each year, commemorates the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps' World War One battle in Gallipoli, with this year marking its centenary.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Parades, like this year's event in Sydney, take place across Australia on Anzac Day

The boy was initially arrested on 2 April in connection with an alleged plan to stage an attack in Melbourne and was detained again after officers examined electronic devices and discovered his communications with a man in Australia.

Outlining the case, Mr Greaney said: "Those messages reveal the intentions of the plotters and their targets, along with their motivation which may be summarised as support for Isis and their enthusiasm for the attack.

"The messages also set out the plotters' preparations for the attack. On 18 March 2015, as part of those preparations, the defendant sent Sevdet Besim a message that read, 'suggest you break into someone's house and get your first taste of beheading'.

"Sevdet Besim responded to say that this seemed 'a little risky' and that aspect of the preparations appears then to have drifted away."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Melbourne parade is an annual event

That exchange was the subject of a second charge, of inciting terrorism overseas in relation to beheading a person in Australia, which has now been dropped by the prosecution.

Mr Greaney said the charge was deleted as the prosecution was dealing with it as "part and parcel" of the offence in count one.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders ordered pre-sentence reports to find out if the boy had been indoctrinated.

He said: "I want some assessment of how and why it occurred and what measures could be taken in order to reverse that process.

"Dealing with someone of this age is an extremely difficult sentencing process and I will need all the help I can get."

The teenager, being held in a youth detention centre, will be sentenced in Manchester on 3 September.