Preston teenage neo-Nazi Thomas Leech jailed for two years for encouraging far-right terrorism

Thomas Leech Credit: Lancashire Police

A teenage neo-Nazi from Lancashire, who glorified and encouraged far-right terrorism against Jews and Muslims has been jailed for two years.

Manchester Crown Court heard that 19-year-old Thomas Leech believed conspiracy theories that the Jews were planning the "Great Replacement" of the white race through extinction and the "Islamicisation" of Europe.

The autistic youngster from Preston had become an isolated, lonely and vulnerable figure who rarely left his home and his far-right online activities "filled a void", the court was told.

The court heard that after being arrested by counter-terrorism police, he told officers: "I am a Nazi."

Police found he had posted online a "call to arms" for the white race, glorifying far-right killers, including Anders Breivik, who murdered 69 youngsters in Norway, and Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Leech, of Derby Road, Preston, admitted at an earlier hearing three counts of encouraging acts of terrorism and two counts of stirring up religious or racial hatred, between March and November 2020.

He also admitted possessing indecent images of children.

Judge Alan Conrad QC sentenced Leech to two years in a young offenders institute, saying "The offences you committed are deeply disturbing."

He was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court today, where he was also given a 12 month extended license period to be applied on completion of his prison sentence, plus 10 years on the sex offenders register, a 10 year Sexual Harm Prevention Order and a 10 year notification requirement under part 4 of the Terrorism Act 2008.

Custody picture of Thomas Leech Credit: Greater Manchester Police

On 28 February 2020, a report was made to police identifying an online user posting hateful and racist comments and demonstrating support of an extreme right-wing ideology.

An investigation was conducted by Counter Terrorism Policing North West (CTPNW) and, aided by Counter Terrorism Command, identified the online user to be Leech.

Further research identified many more online postings by Leech, including comments of an anti-Semitic and racist nature.

Leech was arrested at his home address in November 2020 but, after being released on bail, posted more material online.

During the examination of Leech's digital devices, a number of offences were discovered including indecent images of children and in February 2021 he was further arrested on suspicion of making indecent images of children. In December 2021 he pleaded guilty to seven offences.

Detective Superintendent Will Chatterton, head of CTPNW investigations, said: "Leech's comments and behaviour online was despicable and a thorough investigation was able to identify these posts and evidence them before the courts.

"CTPNW will always take complaints of this nature very seriously and exercise full powers to bring offenders to justice."

Earlier Joe Allman, prosecuting, said Leech first came to police attention when he claimed to be planning a shooting at his school, Wetherby High School, in January 2017.

He told police it was a "prank" and received a caution and some intervention.

Leech was referred to Prevent, the Government's de-radicalisation programme, but he "dropped off the radar" when he moved to Gillingham, Kent, in June 2017.

After moving to Preston, Lancashire, in 2020, posts by him on the online platform called Gab, said to be popular amongst the far-right, were found by the Community Security Trust, a charity involved in security for Jewish communities.

Mr Allman said: "The cumulative effect of the posts is a call to arms by Mr Leech, inciting others who shared his world view to commit mass murder.

"They are replete with evidence of anti-semitism."

The court heard how Leech posted that the Holocaust was a hoax, Jews controlled the world, Third Reich imagery and anti-Muslim content.

Breivik and Tarrant, along with Robert Bowers, who murdered 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who murdered nine African-Americans at a church in Charleston in the US in 2015, were talked of in terms of martyrs to the white race, the court heard.

One post was a photo of Tarrant, sat in his car, smiling, just before he went on the rampage, with the words underneath: "What can one person do?"

The court heard there was no evidence Leech's posts had inspired anyone to commit an offence.

Rachel White, mitigating, said some offences were committed when Leech was aged only 17 or 18 and that he suffered from autism, agoraphobia and bullying, which kept him out of school. She said he rarely left his home, spending his life online.

She added: "He effectively became a keyboard warrior. He was doing it because he needed a feeling of belonging and significance and literally had time on his hands.

"He is ashamed and embarrassed about what he has done."