University student Joshua Walker, who had a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook in a drawer under his mattress, has been cleared of a terrorism offence
A university student who had a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook in a drawer under his mattress has been cleared of a terrorism offence.
Prosecutors claimed Joshua Walker had ‘no reasonable excuse’ for having the 111-page document, discovered during a police search of his student bedsit in Aberystwyth.
But jurors at Birmingham Crown Court took less than three hours to clear him after hearing the 27-year-old’s account he printed the ‘cookbook’ for a role-playing game in 2015, and had then ‘forgotten’ about it.
Walker, 27, was a student at the University of Aberystwyth, but in mid-2016 travelled to the Middle East to assist Kurdish fighters fighting ISIS.
On his return to the UK from Turkey, in December 2016, the International Politics and Strategic Studies student was detained by officers at Gatwick airport and questioned.
It was while he was being questioned, a search of his student bedsit in Dan-y-Coed, Aberystwyth, west Wales, turned up the ‘cookbook’ in a pull-out drawer under his bed.
The war-gaming enthusiast denied a charge of possession of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing for an act of terror.
The decision to prosecute Walker, who now lives in Bristol, was criticised by his barrister who claimed it is freely available online and for sale at well-known internet retailers.
Joel Bennathan QC criticised the Crown Prosecution Service and the Government claiming ‘nothing’ was being done to block sale or distribution of the book, which contains recipes on how to make bombs.
But the prosecution said Walker could provide ‘no reasonable excuse’ for having the 111-page book book for so long, after it was found in his bedroom.
During legal argument at Birmingham Crown Court about whether the case should go ahead, Mr Bennathan told a judge the book was ‘out there’ for sale and for download.
The ‘cookbook’ itself can also be found and downloaded for free with a basic web search.
The document was discovered after Walker was detained at Gatwick airport in December 2016, having returned from assisting Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria
Online retail giant Amazon is among internet sellers, along with Waterstones, Foyles, and others, priced at around £20.
Mr Bennathan, in his legal argument, said: ‘It really is a draconian inference and there really is no public interest when the book is out there, it is for sale and nobody is attempting to restrict that.’
Walker claimed to have printed off the book for the Crisis Games Society role-playing group that he helped run, but then forgot he had it in his student bedsit in Dan-y-Coed, Aberystwyth.
His trial had heard that in the time since the game, he had moved house, though he could not recall having handled it during the change of address.
The decision to prosecute Walker was criticised by his barrister who claimed it is freely available online and for sale at well-known internet retailers
Walker claimed to have printed off the book for the Crisis Games Society role-playing group that he helped run, but then forgot he had it in his student bedsit in Dan-y-Coed, Aberystwyth
During the legal hearing, Mr Bennathan said: ‘It (The Anarchist Cookbook) can be downloaded, purchased in the UK, from Amazon, so the information is out there and remains out there.
‘Prosecuting Mr Walker does not put that genie back in the bottle.
‘It is freely available on the internet.’
The barrister also claimed that ‘the prosecution are doing nothing to suppress the sale by mass sellers of this book’.
Mr Bennathan added: ‘It is for sale, and nobody is attempting to restrict that.’
He said that it was not Mr Walker who was trying to ‘publish or share this material’, but ‘it is actually the internet, and internet sellers like Amazon, who are – to anyone who is able to purchase it’.