Teen who planned attack admits absconding

A teen who once planned an ISIS-style terrorist attack in Christchurch has assured people they are safe even after he absconded from the supervised accommodation where he is GPS monitored.

“I can assure people I’ll not go back to extremism,” the 19-year-old said as he read a letter to Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll pleading for release after a week in custody.

He was arrested last week for breaching his intensive supervision sentence by leaving the house where he is closely monitored.

He walked to a Burger King where he withdrew money intending to get a taxi to see his mother. He was quickly picked up and remanded in custody in Christchurch Men’s Prison.

At his monthly judicial monitoring session today, he pleaded guilty to the charge and it has been remanded for sentence along with other recent breaches involving access to cellphones which are banned because he was originally radicalised online.

The youth, who has name suppression, said he left the accommodation because “I was scared by a few guys” who were in the house. However, a spokesman for the organisation said his feelings of not feeling safe were “not reality”.

The youth’s visits with his mother have been cut-back lately after he twice took a cellphone from her and kept it overnight. He said he had done it to watch pornography, and that was verified when the phones were checked. There had been concern in case he had accessed extremist material again.

The youth said he had left the house intending to see his mother. “I acknowledge it was my actions that led to my and my mum’s visits being restricted,” he told the judge.

He apologised for the breach and said he missed being outside and in the accommodation where he appreciated the work of the staff who had supported him and “expanded my empathy and sympathy for others”.

The youth was arrested almost two years ago after a violent incident in Christchurch. He has been monitored by Judge O’Driscoll since February 2018 when he admitted planning to carry out the attack on a group of people in public, after converting to Islam and being radicalised online.

He originally planned to ram a car into a group of people and then stab them until the police killed him. He wrote a goodbye letter to his mother and then carried out a violent attack in 2017, making threats and causing damage. But he later told a psychologist that he “decided not to hurt anybody because he did not have the means to kill enough people”.

He admitted charges of wilful damage, shoplifting, threatening to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, and possession of an offensive weapon. He has name suppression.

Today he told the judge: “Please forgive me, Your Honour, and let me try again because I am not built for prison.”

He acknowledged that “in the current climate” some people might have been worried that he had walked away from his accommodation but he assured people that they had nothing to fear because he had no intentions to hurt anybody and would never go back to extremism.

He just wanted to lead a good life, but he said he felt terrified when he considered questions about his identity and what his future looked like.

Defence counsel Anselm Williams asked for bail for the youth pending his sentence, and this was granted by Judge O’Driscoll.

The judge told the youth he had read out an impressive letter “but actions speak louder than words”.

“You say things to me one day and the next day something happens which causes everyone concern.

“I am prepared to give you another chance. I have given you many chances. Some might say I have given you too many.”

He granted bail and returned the youth to his intensive supervision sentence, with a remand for another monitoring report on July 4. After that, all the agencies involved in the sentence will meet on July 26 to discuss the case.