Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Scottish youth jailed for poison-letter campaign

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Paul Smith was detained for three years at Edinburgh High Court on Friday after he sent a letter apparently containing a deadly poison to Prince William.

PHOTO: AP

A youth who sent a letter claiming to contain the poison ricin to Prince William, and a bottle of aromatherapy oil laced with caustic soda to Cherie Blair, was on Friday sentenced to three years' detention.

Paul Smith, 17, sent apparently poisonous letters and dangerous packages to politicians and other figures of note after he was recruited over the internet to an anti-English terrorist organization.

Smith, from Dumbarton, Dumbartonshire, was 15 when he began a six month campaign of sending 44 apparently poisonous letters to, among others, the House of Commons, the Scottish parliament, the Home Office and the BBC.

At the high court in Edinburgh, Lord Kingarth sentenced him to three years in a young offender's institute. Smith had become "involved in a sinister and sustained campaign which was calculated to cause and did cause considerable distress and alarm," the judge said.

"You came under the malign influence and direction of someone apparently significantly older, whose extreme political views you do not share now, even if you did then."

Lord Kingarth turned down pleas for leniency, saying that Smith's actions could not be described as "youthful idealism or pranks."

Smith pleaded guilty to two offences at the high court in Glasgow last month. He admitted causing a breach of the peace by sending eight "anthrax" and 36 "ricin" letters, and culpable of reckless conduct by sending the oil laced with caustic soda.

His defense counsel, Edgar Prais QC, told the court that Smith had sent the letters after being groomed by an anti-English terrorist organization, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

He sent eucalyptus oil laced with sodium hydroxide to Blair and Margaret Ashcroft, an aide to Mike Rumbles, an English Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish parliament.

Prais told the court his client had originally been motivated out of concern for others, but, in his naivety, he had allowed himself to become involved with a sinister campaign led by a tiny group.

"Paul Smith is in no sense a terrorism junkie," said Prais. "What changed his concern for the well-being of others into a crime is basically an exploitation and use by others of Paul Smith's childish naivety and immaturity."

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