Teenager given life sentence for planned attack on Justin Bieber concert
The mass shooting of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, as well as the suicide terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the UK's Manchester, were two devastating events last year that made us well aware that attackers like to target music events for their horrific acts. While authorities needed time to investigate exactly how each event was planned and carried out, another potential attack has been preemptively stopped.
A 17-year-old boy caught the attention of authorities after he researched security details for a Justin Bieber concert last year, and reportedly uploaded "terror-related" content to an Instagram account. The Welsh teenager was apprehended and was this week given a life sentence in prison for plotting a terror attack on the concert.
A UK judge said Lloyd Gunton was taken into custody just "hours away from committing an act of atrocity" on the concert that was held in Cardiff on June 30. It was revealed in court that the boy had uploaded photos of ISIS flags to Instagram, and had searched for phrases including "how to create a terror attack" and "what does getting shot feel like?". Gunton's search history also revealed that he was researching how to stab and kill, and how to carry out an attack using a vehicle.
The day of the Justin Bieber concert, Gunton was arrested in his home. Police reportedly found a knife and a claw hammer in his backpack, as well as a "martyrdom letter" and a plan on how the attack would pan out. The plan detailed how he would attack and kill "non-believers" on the streets of Cardiff.
During his defence, Gunton claimed that he never had any intention of carrying out the attack. "I wanted to see how easy it was for people who had an interest in terrorism to go online and get information," he pleaded. "I wanted to see if it was possible, not for me, but from someone else’s point of view."
He was convicted of planning for terrorist acts following a nine-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court last November, and this week, the Court issued Gunton a life sentence. Gunton has an autism spectrum disorder, and while judge Mark Wall QC said his condition made him "something of a loner" and "easily impressed" by things on the internet, he insisted the teenager had every intention of going through with the 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. In my judgment I must pass an indeterminate sentence. Your actions show a total disregard for human life. ‘I cannot foresee a time when I can be confident that your danger will have ended or decreased sufficiently to enable me to pass a determinate or extended sentence."
Gunton will only be eligible for parole after 11 years in prison.