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HMA v Gabrielle Friel


Jan 12, 2021

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Beckett sentenced Gabrielle Friel to an extended sentence of 15 years, with a custodial part of 10 years, after the offender was found guilty of possessing weapons for the purposes of terrorism.


On sentencing Lord Beckett made the following statement in court:

“I have taken account of everything said in mitigation, the content of the social work report and the psychiatric report presented by your defence team. You are still a relatively young man as you were when you committed this crime and I take account of that and its implications. You have not previously served a prison sentence and it will be difficult for you. I note also that it is possible that you suffer from a mild depressive illness and the other information in the psychiatric report.

I observe in passing that whether or not it is a cause or symptom of illness, spending 12 hours and more each day surfing the internet has been extremely damaging for you.

Whilst you have explained the difficulties which you have felt in your family life, education and social life, they offer no possible justification for what you did which went well beyond the realms of fantasy given the items which you accumulated and the circumstances in which you did so.

You have already been convicted of stabbing a police officer to the danger of his life in circumstances which are very troubling in light of what you told the court in evidence of your fascination with, and fantasies about, spree killings. You remained subject to the supervision requirements of a community payback order imposed for that crime when you committed this one.

You have now been convicted of possessing articles for the purposes of terrorism under section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which included a machete, an incomplete ballistic vest and, most significantly, a large and high powered crossbow, capable of firing bolts at 340 feet per second, for which you ordered 15 additional 20 inch metal bolts with pointed steel tips. Your possession of these articles, your online activity, what you told a social worker and psychiatrist and parts of your evidence demonstrate how far you had come and your purpose and motivation in acquiring these items. 

For such a serious crime, there is no suitable alternative to a prison sentence. It is necessary to punish you, to seek to deter you and others from acquiring and possessing articles for the purposes of terrorism and to protect the public from you.

Given the nature of this crime, your previous conviction and its circumstances about which I heard evidence in your trial last month, and what I have learned from the reports, I do not consider that the normal period of licence would be sufficient to protect the public from serious harm from you. I am going to impose an extended sentence with a custodial term and a period of supervision following release.

In fixing the custodial term, I have considered all of the circumstances of the case. I have had some regard to the English Sentencing Council’s “Definitive Sentencing Guideline” of 2018 for this offence.

You will be subject to an extended sentence of 15 years with a 10 year custodial term and a 5 year extension period during which you will be subject to licence conditions fixed by the Scottish Ministers. If you break any condition of licence you can be recalled to prison. Sentence is backdated to 19 August 2019.

Under part 4 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 you will accordingly be subject to notification requirements for 30 years.

I am satisfied that the statutory criteria are met and that it is necessary and appropriate to make a serious crime prevention order on the conditions you have accepted. It will last for 5 years and will commence when you are released from prison.”

12 January 2021