Photo: The couple in court as they gave evidence during the trial. The couple received no jail time. The UK is off the rails.
‘We’ve been convicted of doing what any parent would do.’ I wouldn’t. But I am sure Democrat or Labour parent would.
‘We’ve been convicted of doing what any parent would do’: Jihadi Jack’s parents are SPARED jail – despite being found guilty of funding terrorism by sending their Muslim convert son £223 when he joined ISIS
- Parents of Jack Letts were spared jail after being convicted of funding terrorism
- John Letts, 58, is an Oxfordshire farmer, and Sally Lane, 56, a book publisher
- Jack travelled to Iraq and Syria in May 2014 and allegedly joined ISIS
- Couple were convicted of one offence of sending £223 in September 2015
- Jury at the Old Bailey in London cleared them of the same charge in December 2015 and couldn’t decide on a third charge from January 2016
The parents of Jihadi Jack have said they have been convicted of ‘doing what any parent would do if they thought their child was in danger’, after being spared jail for funding terrorism.
Organic farmer John Letts, 58, and former Oxfam fundraising officer Sally Lane, 57, refused to believe their 18-year-old son Jack had become a dangerous extremist when they allowed him to travel to Syria.
The couple, from Oxford, ignored repeated warnings he had joined Islamic State in the war-torn country and tried to send him cash despite being told not to three times by police, their trial at the Old Bailey heard.
They were today found guilty of funding terrorism by sending £223 to their son in Raqqa in September 2015. Despite trying to send £1,723 in total, they were acquitted of the same charge in December 2015 and the jury were unable to decide on the final charge in January 2016.
They were sentenced to 15 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months this afternoon before giving an emotional statement outside the court saying they did what they did only because they felt their son’s life was in ‘imminent danger’.
Jihadi Jack, who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, is currently believed to be imprisoned by militia in northern Iraq.
John and Sally Letts, of Oxfordshire, are pictured in their police mugshots following their arrests
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said the couple ‘turned a blind eye to the obvious’ – that their son had joined the murderous terrorist group by the time they sent £223 in September 2015.
The defendants claimed their son was trapped in Raqqa and by December 2015 when they tried to send more funds, they were acting under ‘duress’ fearing he was in mortal danger.
A jury deliberated for nearly 20 hours to find the defendants guilty of one charge of funding terrorism in in September 2015 but not guilty of the same charge in December 2015.
Jurors were discharged after they were unable to decide on a third charge relating to an attempt to send money in January 2016.
Ms Morgan said the Crown would not seek a retrial and asked for the charge to lie on file.
There were gasps in the public gallery but no reaction from the defendants in the dock.
The judge, Nicholas Hilliard QC, said the circumstances of the case were ‘very special’.
He said: ‘It was one thing for parents to be optimistic about their children and I do acknowledge he is your son who you love very much. But in this context you did lose sight of realities’
He told the couple: ‘The warning signs were there for you to see.’
The judge said they were ‘intelligent adults’ and set aside their suspicions to ‘please your son’.
The couple made an emotional statement outside the Old Bailey after the trial, saying: ‘We tried to do the right thing. We fully cooperated with the police and asked them repeatedly for help.
‘They promised they would help us, but instead of helping us, they used the information we provided to prosecute us.’
Jenny Hopkins head of the CPS Counter-Terrorism Division, said after the case concluded:’It is natural for parents to care for their son but Sally Lane and John Letts were warned of Jack’s activities and told not to send him money or risk prosecution. They chose to ignore that advice.
‘This case shows that people are breaking the law if they give money that could be used for terrorist purposes even if they don’t sympathise with terrorism.
‘The lessons are simple: individuals should not travel to fight in war zones and those at home should not send them money
The court previously heard how Jack Letts left the family home in May 2014 and embarked on what his parents saw as a ‘grand adventure’ to learn Arabic in Jordan.
Before his departure, a friend of the teenager had tried to warn his parents about his growing extremism and urged them to confiscate his passport.
From Jordan, Letts moved to Kuwait and married Asmaa, the daughter of a tribal elder, in Iraq before travelling on to Syria.
Lane told jurors she was ‘horrified’ when he rang her to say he was in Syria in September 2014.
She said: ‘I screamed at him, ‘How could you be so stupid? You will get killed. You will be beheaded’.’
John Letts begged his son to come home, telling him: ‘A father should never live to see his son buried.’
He went on to accuse him of being a ‘pawn … helping spread hatred, pain, anger, suffering and violence’, jurors heard.
John Letts and Sally Lane’s statement in full
Afterwards the couple’s solicitor, Tayab Ali, read a statement outside the Old Bailey on their behalf.
It read: ‘We have been convicted for doing what any parent would do if they thought that their child’s life was in danger.
‘We want to make it clear that we have not been convicted of funding terrorism.
‘We have been convicted of sending money to our son where there were reasonable grounds to suspect the money might have been used for terrorist purposes.
‘No one during our trial even suggested that the £223 that we actually managed to send to Jack was in fact used for terrorism.
‘The fact that the jury acquitted us of some of the allegations makes it clear that the jury accepted that we believed that our son’s life was in imminent danger.
‘We believe we have been let down badly by the police and the government.
‘We tried to do the right thing. We fully cooperated with the police and asked them repeatedly for help. They promised they would help us, but instead of helping us, they used the information we provided to prosecute us.
‘Jack is still a British citizen, and we have pleaded with the government to help us to bring him to safety even if that meant that he might be prosecuted in the UK. If there is evidence, he has committed a crime, then he should be tried.
‘Having escaped from ISIS, he is in limbo. The government claims it can do nothing because it is too dangerous for officials to travel to Syria to help Jack, although journalists have been able to travel there and we believe that there are numerous members of UK government agencies on the ground in the region. Others – including children ‐ are in the same situation.
‘This means that after more than two years in jail, Jack still faces indefinite detention, without being charged or tried for any crime. Effectively, there is no government policy for British citizens, including children, trapped in Syria.
‘The heavy price we paid today is an indicator of the love we have for our children. We are committed to help Jack return home. We will continue our campaign to help those that the government has turned its back on.’
In early 2015, police raided the family home and warned the defendants not to send any property or money to their son.
Letts ranted about it to his parents, saying police would ‘die in your rage’.
In July 2015, he posted on Facebook that he would like to perform a ‘martyrdom operation’ on a group of British soldiers, and threatened to behead his old school friend Linus Doubtfire, who had joined the Army.
When challenged by his parents, he said: ‘I would happily kill each and every one of Linus Unit personally… I honestly want to cut Linus head off.’
Ms Morgan said it was ‘ridiculous’ to claim the message had been posted by someone else using Jack Letts’s account, because he even knew the name of the family cat.
At the time, Lane conceded in a message to her son it was ‘naive of us to believe’ he was not a fighter.
The defendants also consulted an academic expert who told them it was ‘highly improbable’ that Jack Letts had not engaged in military activity, the court heard.
In spite of the mounting evidence, Lane sent £223 after Jack Letts gave her his word the money would have ‘nothing to do with jihad’.
Police followed up with a second warning, telling Lane that ‘sending money to Jack is the same as sending money to Isis’.
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