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HMA v James Farrell


Mar 15, 2023

At the High Court in Glasgow today Lord Clark sentenced James Farrell to 2 years and 8 months imprisonment after the offender pled guilty to sharing a firearms video and recklessly encouraging acts of terrorism.

On sentencing, Lord Clark said:

“James Farrell, you have pled guilty to the serious charge of disseminating a video and intentionally or recklessly encouraging or inducing or assisting in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

There is an online chat facility named Telegram, which allows a chat group to be set up, similar to WhatsApp. However, if the creator or administrator of the group on Telegram deletes the chat then its contents are removed from all of the group members’ accounts and are unrecoverable.

A chat group called Oaken Hearth Chat was set up on Telegram, containing a number of individuals who all shared far right-wing ideology and mindset. The chat group was infiltrated by an undercover police officer.

When you were added to the chat group, you made several anti-semitic, racist and neo-Nazi comments, which were regular themes in the group’s conversations. There was discussion among the group members about building one’s own firearms and photos were shared by the group of what appeared to be 3D printed firearms.

The group discussed various previous atrocities which involved the killing of many people and, according to the agreed narrative, you said in the chat “Its about time someone firebombed a synagogue”, although there is also a reference to using a video game.

One of the members of the group chat shared a picture of two cross- bows. A member responded to your question about whether they go to the range and replied no, but they practice in their garden and the woods. You then replied “You’re doing something that’s the most important thing”.

You posted a video on the chat group, containing instructions on how to construct a replica of a MAC-11 firearm. Part of the title of the video is “The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol”.

When posting the video you texted: “Don’t build - share for the music”. There is music on the video. The agreed narrative states that you did this to minimise your actions. When interviewed by the police you indicated that what you texted was an attempt to provide “a bit of cover” (that is, a cover up). You described the video as an “edgy cool video that people might appreciate on that chat”.

You sourced the video online, shared it on this chat group and later deleted it.

The seriousness of the offence you committed can be drawn from what is said in the indictment to which you pled guilty. At the very least you have accepted that you were reckless - that is, utterly indifferent – as to whether or not your conduct in transmitting the video would encourage or induce or provide assistance for acts of terrorism or the preparation of such acts.

As the Criminal Justice Social Work Report states, you continue to adhere to your far right-wing views. You have expressed no remorse. You are also assessed by the author as creating a maximum risk of re-offending.

I accept Mr Lenehan KC’s submission that this assessment of risk does not take full account the protective aspects. But there must still be a significant element of risk.

There are certain relevant mitigating factors, to which Mr Lenehan KC has referred. These include that by solely following the instructions on the video you sent, a replica sub-machine pistol would be constructed but it would be “non-firing”. The absence of a firing pin and unobstructed barrel would not allow the discharge of a bulleted cartridge. There would also need to be a recoil spring fitted.

Against that, as the agreed narrative states, any replica built using the instructions in the video you posted would be intimidating to anyone who was presented with it, as it would have a very similar appearance to the machine pistol it is based on.

Another mitigating factor is that in order to post the video, as mentioned earlier you accessed the video online, and so others seeking to find such a video could it seems have found it online.

However, even if it could be obtained by searching online, the fact remains that you sent it to a group whose members were having discussions about atrocities and building one’s own firearms and who were sharing far right-wing sentiments. In other words, you made the video directly available to extremists and potential terrorists and encouraged or induced or assisted them.

I have taken all of the circumstances into account, including everything said on your behalf this morning by Mr Lenehan KC and the full terms of the Criminal Justice Social Work Report.

I note that you have no previous convictions and have a long-term relationship with your partner, with whom you have four children.

However, terrorism is an abhorrent form of conduct, highly damaging to our community. Recklessly taking steps which could encourage terrorism must be treated as very serious. There is no appropriate alternative to a custodial sentence.

In light of the assessment of your risk of re-offending, there is also a serious risk to the public after your release.

I shall therefore impose a sentence upon you in two parts.

The first part of the sentence is a period of imprisonment. You pled guilty to these charges at a very early stage.  Had you not pled guilty but been convicted after trial the period of imprisonment would have been 4 years. As a consequence of the timing of your plea, that custodial part of your sentence requires to be discounted by one-third, to 2 years and 8 months.

The second part that I shall impose on you is a Supervised Release Order.

Accordingly, I order that, on your release from custody, you will be under the supervision of the local authority for a period of 12 months.

During that period after your release from custody, you will report to the supervising officer allocated to supervise you in a manner and at intervals specified by him or her; you will keep your supervising officer informed of your current address and you will comply with any other requirement he or she may reasonably specify.

If you breach the order, you may be brought back to court and returned to custody for all or any part of a period equal to that between the date of your first breach of the order and the date when your supervision would expire.

The sentence will run from today’s date”.

 15 March 2023