Self-radicalisation of a minor for the purposes of terrorism.

News Desk

The town of Haworth in North Yorkshire is beloved of hikers, steam railway enthusiasts and fans of the Brontë sisters. It is quiet (when the tourists have gone home) and picturesque. No one would challenge its description as "idyllic"... until Joe Metcalfe decided he wanted to be a terrorist.

In 2021, Joe Metcalfe lived with his parents in the North Yorkshire village of Haworth, in the Pennine Hills. It barely qualifies as a town.

Metcalfe was 15 when, in 2021, his school reported to the North East Counter-Terrorism "Prevent" team that they were suspicious of his behaviour. An intelligence officer known by a false name talked to him on thirteen occasions and learned that Metcalfe had formed a strong liking for extreme right wing ideology and, in particular, a white supremacist agenda.

Homosexuals, Jews and anyone who wasn't white were the targets he found out about using the internet and he accessed much material glorifying the mass murder of Muslims, for example. There was a near idolisation of the perpetrators of such crimes.

Like some of those, he produced a "manifesto" and his "identified Muslims as a specific threat to white Europeans" and that violence was a necessary response.

Sentencing Metcalfe, HH Cheema-Grubb, J said "In the manifesto you stated you would not carry out the action needed because of your family, girlfriend and friends. However, you used the threat of carrying out a terrorist attack as part of your method to control J (his girlfriend in 2022, a minor who cannot be identified). You told her that if she split up with you, you would shoot up a mosque or “run them over” and kill yourself afterwards."

He went so far as to research a mosque in a nearby town and even to approach a gun shop to ask about buying a weapon.

Metcalfe's conduct resulted in a prosecution and conviction for a range of offences under anti-terrorism legislation. He pleaded guilty to some and was found guilty of others. The Judge made specific mention of the following: "the jury found you guilty of preparing to commit acts of terrorism. The preparation included researching terrorist publications, writing a manifesto, carrying out internet research for items to use in a terrorist attack, making enquiries about how to obtain firearms, researching the Markazi Jamia mosque in Keighley on the internet, visiting the area of that mosque on 5 June 2022 and writing a detailed plan for carrying out a terrorist attack. There was cogent evidence that you had indeed done exactly what was alleged. The dispute in the trial was whether any of it was done with the intent to actually carry out a terrorist atrocity. "

Family background

Metcalfe had been brought to the attention of the Social Services Department in 2016. His father and his older brother were both violent to his mother. He, too, became abusive towards his mother who left the family home in 2022.

By then he had begun to publicly express extreme racist views and to smoke cannabis. He started to drink - as much as a quarter of a bottle of vodka each day and occasionally used heroin. He became aggressive and there was "noted deterioration in your mental health."

He "began to express suicidal thoughts " and "you were diagnosed with ADHD by an online
assessment" but did not take the medicine. And a psychologist "assessed you as being of low average general intelligence, abnormally suggestible and compliant and likely to display a strong need for external support and attention."

So, he was a prime candidate for grooming and incitement.

But that's not what happened.

All his own work

"Having heard and seen the evidence in the
trial including your own evidence I agree with the observation in the pre-sentence report that you have never provided any indication that your views and behaviour were incited by anybody else," said the Judge.

There remains confusion as to his state of mind. There may, or may not, be psychosis. He may be making up stories about voices in his head. If there is psychosis, it may be due to the use of cannabis. He is being treated with anti-psychotic and anti-depression medication, the former as a prophylactic "in case you have some psychotic condition although none has been diagnosed
despite your sustained stay in the Gardner Psychiatric Unit in Manchester where you have been since September 2022" and the latter because his current conditions are creating depression.

In a separate trial, Metcalfe has been convicted of multiple rapes of J.

Metcalfe admitted that he had accessed a wide range of terrorist, violent and abusive sexual conduct over the internet. He joined radical Telegram groups as a contributor "I am sure that at the time, you intended that your dissemination would encourage others to carry out acts of terrorism." said the Judge. He had downloaded some and put it onto an MP4 player which he arranged for his father to deliver to him. He stole mobile phones from the nurses' station and uploaded images and videos from those phones to social media. He created a "snap" for SnapChat which contained a series of images glorifying extremism, it being available for 24 hours before self-expiring. While under medical supervision, he became so violent that another patient had to be moved for his own protection and he tried to incite other patients to cause harm to the supervising doctor.

The judge concluded that her decision to delay sentencing from March to November so that Metcalfe could be better assessed once the reality of his conviction had set in had not worked and that the reports present "a troubling picture. I do not know whether the racist, extremist and violent attitudes your offences demonstrate originated from home life and the influence of parents and grandparents, at least one of whom you have admitted expressed racist views. I cannot judge the degree to which they were, inevitably, reinforced by your use of the internet. You did not have a happy home environment but despite the support provided to you through school, social services and, significantly the Prevent programme and
‘Will’ (the intelligence officer), you inhabited a narrow life in which you found companionship and significance in groups of (mostly) male followers of far-right extremist ideas. Rather than accept the help offered you went in the other direction and decided to take action if you could. The unhealthy aspects of your parenting have contributed to your disaffection and misogyny. "

She went on "The author of the pre-sentence report concludes that you present a high risk of
further offending at present. She goes on to consider the risk you pose of causing serious harm to others by the commission of further serious specified offences. Although reaching a firm view is difficult for all the reasons I have
summarised she states that until specific offence focused work is undertaken and completed you pose a high risk of causing serious harm to others through further harmful sexual behaviour and future acts of terror[ism].


Because you have been remanded for 500 days that period must come off and so the custodial part of the sentence is ten years less 500 days. When you are released the second part of the
sentence starts. You will be on extended licence until the whole sentence of 16 years is served"

I do not make a Parenting Order (which amounts to an order that a parent must accept "advice and support") in this case. You are currently in the care of the Social Services and you will become 18 in ten months time. It is apparent to me that your father minimises [in the sense that he fails to recognise its seriousness] your behaviour and will provide little effective guidance at the moment."

The judgment is long and detailed. It is interesting because it shows the deterioration of a young man who was isolated, in an uncaring home, and who suffered from all the attributes that are so often associated with grooming and other forms of abuse but present in the case of someone who, by all accounts, was a self-starter.

The most visible warning sign seems to be that a child under 10 was already on the radar of "the system" and yet still managed to be almost entirely "a loner."…