A Welsh teenager has been sentenced to life in prison for plotting a terror attack on a Justin Bieber concert in 2017, with a UK judge saying that he was taken into custody just “hours away from committing an act of atrocity.”
17-year-old Lloyd Gunton, from south Wales, had researched security details of Bieber’s June 30 concert in Cardiff, and had reportedly uploaded “terror-related” images to an Instagram account, including photos of ISIS flags.
The court heard that the teen’s search history included research on how to carry out vehicular attacks and how to stab and kill. He had searched for phrases including “how to create a terror attack” and “what does getting shot feel like?”
Gunton was arrested in his home on the day of the Justin Bieber concert, and was found with a knife and claw hammer in his backpack. He also had a bullet-point plan of how an attack would be carried out, and what police described as a “martyrdom letter.”
Speaking in his defense, Gunton claimed that he never actually intended to carry out an attack, saying:
“I wanted to see how easy it was for people who had an interest in terrorism to go online and get information … I wanted to see if it was possible, not for me, but from someone else’s point of view.”
In Birmingham Crown Court this week, the teen was found guilty this week on one charge of engaging in the preparation of a terrorist act, as well as two charges of encouraging terrorism, and another two charges of possessing terrorist information.
Judge Mark Wall QC acknowledged that Gunton’s autism made him “something of a loner” and “easily impressed” by material from the internet, but rejected the argument that he was merely interested, saying he had every intention of carrying out an attack:
“At the time of your arrest you were within hours of committing an act of atrocity on the streets of Cardiff. It is not possible to estimate how many people would have been murdered or seriously injured by your actions as the attack was foiled before you could undertake it. I am sure that you planned not just the killing of one person but rather mass murder.”
Gunton will serve a minimum of 11 years before being eligible for parole.