A Cambridge maths graduate with an “extreme right-wing mindset” has been jailed for two years for possessing a bomb-making instructional manual.
Police found a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook when they searched the home of Oliver Bel, 24, in November 2019.
Last month he was found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of collecting information likely to be useful to a terrorist after a jury rejected his defence that he had a reasonable excuse as he claimed he used it for academic research.
Bel must serve an extended licence period of 12 months when he is released from custody.
Defending Adolf Hitler on Facebook
He came to the attention of the authorities in January 2019 while studying at Pembroke College when a member of the public reported his anti-Semitic comments made in a Facebook group in which he also defended Adolf Hitler.
Meetings with a counter-terrorism officer from the Government’s Prevent programme followed but Bel was not deterred as analysis of his mobile phone later seized by police revealed a Facebook post in July 2019 about wanting to “go on a spree”, which was reported by his tutor.
His phone communications also showed comments he made the previous year online such as “I just want to go on a killing spree”, “I hate Jews… Just kill them all”, and “Kill all n*****”, the court heard.
Police searched his then home in Salford just days after anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate published an article in which they revealed Bel’s Nazi sympathies, the court was told.
‘Hatred for people who have done you no harm’
Sentencing on Friday, Judge Alan Conrad QC told Bel: “A great deal of evidence showed your extreme right-wing mindset in terms of your communications and alliances with others of similar mind. Your pronouncements were abhorrent to all right-thinking people.
“I emphasise that I am not punishing you for your political views which, however repellent, were views that you are entitled to hold, provided that the line into criminality is not crossed. I observe, however, that it is profoundly dispiriting to see a young man such as yourself blessed with high intelligence whose heart is filled with so much hatred for all manner of people who have done you no harm and who pose no threat to you.”
Bel, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2016 but the judge noted he believed it is “something upon which you play when it suits you”.
He said the author of the defendant’s pre-sentence report was concerned Bel appeared to have a “complete lack of understanding” of the seriousness of his actions or the risks posed by his ongoing association with extremism.
Judge Conrad said he was assessed in the report as posing a high risk of serious harm to the public.
He told him: “The real worry in your case was that your conduct might have the effect of encouraging others of extreme mindset to take an extreme course.”