A police commander has appealed to relatives to help spot the signs of radicalisation in their loved ones ahead of the sentencing of a promising teenager for right-wing terror offences.
Harry Vaughan, 18, of south-west London, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey next week for 14 terrorism offences and two child abuse image offences, the Metropolitan Police said.
Commander Richard Smith. the head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said the case shows that any young person can be susceptible to radicalisation.
The Met have repeatedly emphasised the growing threat of far-right extremism, even though figures show far more Islamist extremists are currently considered a danger by MI5.
Harry Vaughan, 18, (pictured) was arrested by police during a probe into a website named Fascist Forge, which calls itself a ‘home for the 21st century fascist’
Vaughan was arrested on June 19 2019 after by police during a probe into a website named Fascist Forge, which calls itself a ‘home for the 21st century fascist’.
Detectives identified that he was one of a number of people posting messages on the extremist website.
Digital forensic specialists retrieved 4,200 images and 302 files, including an extreme right-wing terrorist book and documents relating to Satanism, Neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, from Vaughan’s devices.
Police said incriminating files included graphics encouraging acts of terrorism in the name of the proscribed organisation Sonnenkrieg Division, a guide to killing people, and bomb-making manuals.
There was also content linked to an American neo-Fascist book called Siege and neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and Satanic material, some of which was found on a USB stick carrying the logo of Tiffin School a grammar in Kingston, south-west London, which Vaughan attended.
Detectives also identified that Vaughan had downloaded and watched two child abuse videos, classified category A – the most serious type.
Commander Richard Smith said: ‘Harry Vaughan is an intelligent young man who was predicted A-star grades and aspiring to study computing at university.
‘Yet, online, he was an enthusiastic participant of right-wing terrorist forums.
‘He made and published vitriolic graphics encouraging terrorism and signposted people to violent terrorist guidebooks online.
‘His case illustrates it is possible for any young person to be susceptible to radicalisation, so today I really want to appeal to everyone to be as vigilant as possible for signs that a young loved one may be in trouble.
Digital forensic specialists retrieved 4,200 images and 302 files, including an extreme right-wing terrorist book (pictured: Vaughan’s bedroom)
‘If you have any concerns at all, act decisively – talk to the police before it’s too late.
‘We have officers who are specially trained and ready to help people who are becoming radicalised choose a better life for themselves.’
Mr Smith said people who are being radicalised may not know what is happening.
‘If you are the person being radicalised, you may not realise it. You may be feeling confused, angry and alone.
‘There may be a niggling voice in the back of your head questioning what you are doing.
Court documents revealed there was also content linked to an American neo-Fascist book called Siege and neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and Satanic material. Some of it was found on a USB stick carrying the logo of Tiffin School, the grammar Vaughan had attended in Kingston, south-west London (picture: Vaughan’s bedroom)
‘If this sounds like you, please reach out – we can help you as we have many people before you,’ he said.
Police said Vaughan entered guilty pleas at Westminster Youth Court on September 2.
The Met said he pleaded guilty to one count of encouragement of terrorism, one count of disseminating a terrorist publication, 12 counts of possessing a document containing information of a kind likely to be of use to a person preparing or committing an act of terrorism, and two counts of making an indecent photograph of a child.
When Vaughan was arrested last June he was studying for A-levels in maths and computer science at Tiffin School, Kingston, (pictured) where he was said to be among the best performing pupils
Mr Smith said: ‘Vaughan sought to spread his poisonous views, to encourage others to commit acts of terrorism and to provide like-minded people with the information they need to kill people.
‘Vaughan’s actions have not gone undetected and counter-terrorism police have ensured that he – like many before him – face justice.
‘Please, if you are worried about yourself or someone else, let us know. Let us help before it’s too late.’
In court today, prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds said Vaughan described himself in his profile as an ‘extremist’ and said his ideology was ‘cult of the Supreme Being’ as he shared ‘sophisticated’ far-right propaganda posters he had made on his laptop.
In a March 2018 application to join the System Resistance Network – an alias of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action – he said he was a 5ft 7in 16-year-old from south-west London.
He wrote: ‘I could handle myself in a fight. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to further the cause.’
Vaughan, 18, of south-west London, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey later for 14 terrorism offences and two child abuse image offences (Picture: Old Bailey)
Mr Pawson-Pounds said Vaughan had also looked on Google maps for the locations of schools near his home and searched for explosives and plastic pipes.
He said: ‘The material demonstrated unequivocally that Vaughan had an entrenched extreme right-wing and racist mindset, as well as an interest in explosives, firearms and violence more generally.
‘He also demonstrated an interest in the occult and Satanism.’
Vaughan appeared in the dock at the Old Bailey on Friday wearing a blue face mask, beige chinos and a dark blue Fred Perry sweater over a polo shirt.
His parents, Jake and Rachel Vaughan, sat in front in the well of the court.
Vaughan’s barrister, Naeem Mian QC, said the material described in court was a “mere glimpse” of the teenager’s “extensive library of hate”.
Mr Mian said “articulate and intelligent” Vaughan, who had “distinguished himself” playing the cello, “had every advantage that could’ve been afforded to him”.
But he said his “loving, committed parents” had been left with a “sense of bewilderment” after his arrest, while specialists have since diagnosed their son with high-functioning autism.
“He is somebody who has disappeared down a rabbit hole, a rabbit hole of the internet, and he is in a very, very dark place, or certainly was. And he was there, it would appear, from the age of about 14,” said Mr Mian.
“He suggests or intimates he was groomed … The more appropriate word would be ‘exposed to’ over a protracted period of time, and that’s undoubtedly resulted in where is now and undoubtedly resulted in him going down different warrens in this rabbit hole that he’s disappeared down.”
Mr Mian added: “This is perhaps an ideal illustration of the dangers each and every parent has to deal with, potentially.
“We cannot be sure where they are going, what they are doing, in their bedrooms. That is the position the parents of this young man have found themselves in. They have questioned themselves. Are they to blame?”
The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said: “As a parent myself, I am naturally sympathetic to their plight.”
Adjourning sentencing until next Friday, he released Vaughan on conditional bail, but warned that he could face a jail sentence.
“You must understand that all sentencing options are open,” he told him.
When Vaughan was arrested last June he was studying for A-levels in maths and computer science at Tiffin School where was said to be among Tiffin’s best performing pupils.
The school, which counts former England cricket captain Alec Stewart among former pupils, accepts just 140 students a year from 1,300 applicants. It boasts that 85 per cent of its A-level grades are between A* and B.
Vaughan was just 16, when he published three images and a message on Fascist Forge that were intended to encourage terrorism.
But expert estimates and new figures suggest far-right extremists are just a tiny part of the problem.
While Britain’s top anti-terror officer Neil Basu has repeatedly said that right-wing extremism poses the fastest growing terror threat to the UK, figures suggest the number of people held for terrorism are far bigger.
MI5’s watchlist has doubled to 43,000 this year with experts saying nine-tenths of these are jihadis.