'Soldier of Allah' avoids terror charge due to Facebook settings

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A self-styled “Soldier of Allah” who threatened to blow up a hospital escaped terror charges because of his Facebook settings.
Leroy McCarthy, 22, a Muslim convert, described murdered soldier Lee Rigby as a "white coward who invades countries and rapes people" and said he planned to leave the UK to “join my people's cause".
However, he could not be charged under the Terrorism Act because his profile was set to private, meaning he was jailed for just 18 weeks.
View photosMuslim convert Leroy McCarthy, who also uses the name Abdullah Mahmood, escaped being charged with terrorism offences Credit: Ben Lack
The case led to calls for the law to be changed. David TC Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouthshire, a former serving police officer, said: "I think this worrying case highlights why the law needs to be changed to be further tightened up to prevent terrorist sympathisers and people encouraging violent acts from spreading their hate-filled messages whatever their Facebook settings are.
“He clearly intended to encourage and incite acts and should face the full force of the law to do so."
McCarthy, from Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, who also uses the name Abdullah Mahmood,  published a series of offensive, anti-semitic and homophobic posts on the social media site.
In one post, he alluded to blowing up Furness General Hospital (FGH), and stated: "They wouldn't be able to evacuate all of FGH's patients in time before at least one of the three explosions."
Another comment said "We are all martyrs of the Lord."
View photos McCarthy, who has 14 months left on licence after being released from custody in June after assaulting his partner, added: “14 months then it's passport and off to join my people's cause. I cannot wait to turn my back on the UK.”
He also posted: “"A few months left and all my brothers are free. All them months of planning and it will be like a belated bonfire night for all those involved."
When he was arrested last Saturday, he asked police from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit  what had happened to freedom of speech and said that  "if he was going to bomb somewhere it would be the Trafford Centre".
However, McCarthy’s Facebook settings meant he avoided terrorism charges on a legal technicality.
In order to charge an individual with encouraging terrorism, prosecutors must prove that the statement was intended to be seen by the public.
McCarthy’s profile was set to private, meaning the posts could only be seen by his 340 friends, so he could only be charged with an offence under the Communications Act.
He pleaded guilty to publishing a message that was “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” when he appeared this week at Furness Magistrates Court.
View photosLeroy McCarthy, who also uses the name Abdullah Mahmood, described murdered soldier Lee Rigby as a "white coward who invades countries and rapes people." Credit: Ben Lack
Maureen Fawcett, defending, said: "He accepts the postings would have been grossly offensive and upsetting, but they were taken out of context.
"He had fallen out with his sister who works at the hospital.
"He has also never been abroad on a lads' holiday and he wanted to leave the UK to get his life back on track."
Ms Fawcett said: "He has pleaded guilty today and the officers who have been with him actually thanked him for how open and frank he has been.
"He reverted to become a Muslim when he was released from prison in 2015 and he is more peaceful since then. He had taken about 20 Valium on the day he posted these.
"He was homeless and struggling to get by."
McCarthy was also ordered to pay £85 costs and a victim surcharge of £115.

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