domestic violence

Undercover Police ‘Fed’ A 13-year-old Autistic Boy’s Fixation With Islamic State

counter-terrorism unit

Undercover Police ‘Fed’ A 13-year-old autistic Boy’s Fixation With Islamic State

A recent news story has sent shockwaves across Australia. According to reports, a counter-terrorism unit in Victoria fed an autistic child’s worrying interest in the Islamic State. Their efforts to collect evidence to charge the 13-year-old only made matters a lot worse. 

A court found that the counter-terrorism unit’s actions fell ‘profoundly short’ of the standards expected of law enforcement. 

What happened? 

The boy’s parents asked authorities for help following a serious of worrying events. His parents grew concerned about his fixation with the Islamic State. For example, the boy consumed extremist content online. He also asked his mother to buy ingredients used to make explosives. Also, he made threat to his fellow students. 

As a result, they reported these concerns to the police. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) also reported his behaviour.

Following an investigation, police charged the child with terrorism offences. However, the investigation was conducted wrongfully by the counter terrorism unit for a number of reasons. 

During the investigation, Victoria police had access to the boy, his home, mobile phone, and to personal information about his school. They made a serious of attempts to help curb his extremism. However, while it was in progress, the police also ran another operation to target the boy. 

The police instructed an operative to chat to the boy online about terrorism and related topics. The aim of the operation was to gather evidence so police could charge him. The boy and the operative talked for months. After a while, the first operative then introduced him to another agent who pretended to be very extreme in his agenda.  

Counter-terrorism unit’s conduct fell ‘profoundly short’ 

This person encouraged the boy to make a bomb and kill an AFP member. One day, the boy sent the operative a picture of him holding a knife with ISIS written on it. Police searched his house within days. Police charged him within two months. 

However, a superintendent failed to say that the undercover operative was having a negative effect on him. This information should have been passed on before they arrested the boy. 

Finally, the judge explained that they doomed the possibility of rehabilitation as soon as the operative connected with the boy. The operation fed his fixation and gave him an outlet for him to express his fantasy world. Ultimately, the actions of the police were unethical. 

Judge says counter-terrorism police fed boy’s extremism 

When announcing the decision, magistrate Lesley Fleming stated: 

The community would not expect law enforcement officers to encourage a 13-14 year old child towards racial hatred, distrust of police and violent extremism, encouraging the child’s fixation on ISIS.”

“The community would not expect law enforcement to use the guise of a rehabilitation service to entice the parents of a troubled child to engage in a process that results in potential harm to the child.

“The conduct engaged in by the JCTT and the AFP falls so profoundly short of the minimum standards expected of law enforcement offices [sic] that to refuse this [stay] application would be to condone and encourage further instances of such conduct.”

Defence of doli incapax

Furthermore, Fleming said the police deliberately waited to charge the boy until after he turned 14. Once over the age of 14, it’s a lot harder to use the defence of doli incapax, which means that a child is not criminally responsible for their actions.

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Nicole Byrne

Content Creator | Media Coordinator
O'Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors

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Nicole Byrne
Nicole Byrne Content Creator | Media Coordinator O'Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors

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