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HMA v Nikolaos Karvounakis


Feb 16, 2022

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Braid sentenced Nikolaos Karvounakis to 8 years and 4 months imprisonment after the offender pled guilty to a contravention of section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

On sentencing Lord Braid made the following statement in court

"Nikolaos Karvounakis, you have been convicted of a contravention of section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000.  You had in your possession a device containing explosive material in circumstances giving rise to reasonable suspicion that your possession was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.   The terrorist organisation whose cause you were seeking to promote was the ITS, an eco-terrorist group which commits acts of violence against people or property in support of environmental causes.

You bought the necessary components over a period of months, and, using an instructional video on the internet, assembled them into a viable device. You put the device into a pipe inside a cardboard box, which you placed in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, where it was discovered on 11 January 2018.   Inside the pipe were 58 nails, 27 of which had been cut in half.  As you acknowledge, had the device detonated, it could have caused significant injury to persons and damage to property in close proximity, due to the nails and fragments of pipe being projected outwards.  Fortunately, that did not happen, but the finding of the device resulted in massive disruption to the surrounding area, which lasted well into the following day.  The emergency services also required to become involved.

Although the device did not detonate, all of the components necessary for that to happen were present including an initiator (a lightbulb filament), the main charge (ground match heads), a power source and a switch – wires which were intended to connect when the flap of the box was opened. 

You say that you did not intend the device to detonate, and manufactured the device in such a way that it could not have ignited.  I have three things to say about that.  First, to an extent that is already reflected in the terms of the offence to which you have pled guilty, which nonetheless carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.  Second, the scientific evidence is that even if what you say is true, there remained a potential for explosion, due to the potential introduction of a hot filament wire in close proximity to a low explosive substance, for example if the fuse was not sufficiently well separated from the filament.  And third, your present position is not consistent with the claim of responsibility which you posted, or at least caused to be posted, on the internet shortly after the device had been found.

You have expressed remorse for your actions.  You have apologised and tendered a letter to the court in which you profess to have renounced your past ideological inclinations.  The tone of the letter is in stark contrast to the chilling words in your claim of responsibility. 

I take into account the Criminal Justice Social Work Report and everything said on your behalf in mitigation.  The Report to an extent supports your renunciation of your beliefs, insofar as that can be objectively verified, and also contains your explanation that you committed the offence due to your feelings of inadequacy and a desire to gain approval from those you were communicating with online.  The report  points out there was a period of three and a half years between the commission of this offence and your arrest when you do not appear to have been involved in any further offending, as highlighted by your solicitor advocate.  The imminence of further offending by you does not appear to be high.

Nonetheless, in selecting the appropriate headline sentence, I must take into account that the offence involved a high degree of culpability on your part, as shown by the significant degree of planning; that you were reckless as to whether injury to innocent members of the public was caused or not, and that afterwards you appeared to exult in the commission of the offence in your claim of responsibility.  I also take into account that if the device had detonated, serious injury could have been caused to multiple victims.

For an offence of this nature, I consider that the primary sentencing aims are protection of the public, punishment and deterrence; and that a significant sentence is called for as an expression of society’s abhorrence of terrorist activity and to deter others.  As far as protection of the public from you is concerned, that will also be achieved, on your eventual release from custody, by the Serious Crime Prevention Order which I also propose to make.

Your personal circumstances do provide some mitigation, including that you have no previous convictions, that you have expressed remorse for your actions, and that you do appear to have renounced the beliefs which led you to commit this offence.  All of this does serve to reduce the sentence which might otherwise have been passed.

Taking all of that into account, had you not pled guilty, the sentence I would have imposed would have been one of 10 years’ imprisonment.  You are entitled to a discount to reflect your guilty plea.  Having regard to the stage at which the plea was tendered, and its utilitarian value, I consider that a discount of one sixth is appropriate, resulting in a sentence of 8 years and 4 months imprisonment.  This sentence will be backdated to 2 August 2021.

As a result of this sentence you will be subject to the notification requirements of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 for a period of 15 years.

I will also make a Serious Crime Prevention Order in the terms sought by the Crown."