Mark Shanks secures acquittal in high-profile terror case – amidst the Covid epidemic

R v HM & FAA (2020)

Mark, led by Francis Fitzgibbon QC, secured the acquittal of his client (FAA) who faced terrorism charges. The unanimous Not Guilty verdicts followed  a re-trial lasting over four weeks at the Old Bailey, after the original jury (in a trial lasting 7 weeks in Autumn 2019) failed to reach a verdict.

Success in terrorism trial

The re-trial was the longest running trial in the UK at the time following the Covid-19 restrictions, and required specific care taken in order ensure it was completed safely.

Mark’s client, FAA, stood trial alongside his cousin HM, facing allegations of preparing an act of terrorism. Both men had each faced over 20 hours of interview over a period of 10 days at the hands of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit.

HM was with engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts, contrary to section 5(1) of the Terrorism Act 2006. This offence is committed where a person, with the intention of committing an act or acts of terrorism or assisting another to commit such an act or acts, engages in any conduct in preparation for giving effect to his intention.

FAA was charged under Section 38(B) Terrorism Act 2000 – failing to inform authorities of his cousin’s intentions . The law requires that if a person has information which he knew or believed might be of material assistance in preventing the commission by another person of an act(s) of terrorism, that he/she discloses that information as soon as reasonably practicable to the police; failure to do so amounts to a criminal offence under this section of the Terrorism Act. Both defendants were Category A prisoners, due to the seriousness and nature of the offences alleged.

This was a case where both defences rested upon each other, and a mis-step by either defendant, whilst under extreme scrutiny, would likely result in the conviction of both defendants.

The case itself involved allegations that HM has been acting as a ‘lone wolf’ on behalf of ISIS, and had been  conducting significant research into British military and police defences to terrorist attacks (including a personal reconnaissance visits to Castle Army barracks in Bury). It was alleged that he was spurred on by videos and material produced by Islamic State outlets, which depicted nasheeds, extreme violence (including beheadings) and anti-Western propaganda.

Amongst the items found in the property the men shared were knives, machetes, bear claws, Metsubushi ‘ninja eggs and what the Crown alleged was evidence of attempts to make a drone that be able to drop explosive material upon those below.

Following challenge to some of the world finest experts in each field, and the accounts given by both defendants, the jury acquitted unanimously after three days of deliberation.

Media coverage of the trial can be found here:

https://news.sky.com/story/fast-food-worker-who-called-himself-local-terrorist-cleared-of-plotting-to-attack-army-base-with-axes-and-drone-12055748

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