HMA v FARIS AL-KHORI

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 2 April 2015, Lady Wolffe sentenced Faris Al-Khori to three years and four months imprisonment and made a supervised release order after the accused pled guilty to possessing explosive substances.

On sentencing, Lady Wolffe made the following statement in court:

“Faris Al-Khori, you have pled guilty to a charge of knowingly having in your possession or control explosive substances without lawful object, contrary to section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883. While you have pled guilty to a single charge, the schedule lists 41 separate substances found in your possession or control.

The agreed narrative previously provided to me discloses that varying quantities of a wide variety of explosive substances were found in the two flats occupied by you, or to which you had regular access. A few of these substances had only one purpose, namely as an explosive material or were described as volatile or unstable.  In addition, it is agreed that you had quantities of metal pipes, nuts, metal rods, nails, air pellets, and the like. Furthermore, a large amount of documentation was recovered, some in your own handwriting, and containing instructions on how to prepare explosives and bombs.

It would appear that you had been gathering some of these materials for a very considerable period of time. Indeed, some of the substances had become degraded by the passage of time. You have accepted that you had possession of all of the items recovered and you have acknowledged their potential use and danger, if misused.

However, on the occasion when this matter first called before me, it was fairly accepted in oral submissions to me that this is not a terrorist offence and that ultimately you have not been charged under any terrorism legislation.  In other words, it is accepted by the Crown that you never made or attempted to make any explosive substance, explosive device or IED. I make it clear, that I sentence you on that basis.

I have had regard to the criminal justice social work report. It records that you deny any intention to make an explosive device from these substances. In that report you suggest that you had these items for academic interest. However, it is also noted that you cannot fully explain your possession of these substances, or those which could only have been used in the construction of explosives. That report notes that, although there is no indication that you intended to cause catastrophic harm to the public, you continue to pose a risk to the public. The author of that report recommends a degree of community supervision to manage that risk and which would be of benefit to you.

In relation to your past record, you have one conviction for fraud prosecuted at summary level and dating to almost 20 years ago.

I have taken into account all that has been said on your behalf.  I have particular regard to your personal circumstances, which are that you are now aged 62, have generally been of good behaviour and that you were highly educated as a doctor at the time you came to the UK. However, you never secured the necessary requalification in order to practice in that profession in the UK. You have a long-standing partner and, at times over the years, your partner has had a number of health issues and you have been her carer. Your family remains supportive of you. 

On your behalf it was stated that you purchased these items openly, in your own name and through the usual retail channels.  However, it was also accepted that the sheer quantities involved precluded any explanation tendered of these being for household use or academic interests.

I sentence you on the basis that what you have pled guilty to is only of possession of explosive substances, and not the potentially more serious matter of making an explosive device. The Crown accepts that you did not make any explosive device and that you had no intention to do so.

In the light of all of the information before me, I have considered whether a custodial sentence is necessary. The crime to which you have pled guilty is very serious and has the features I have already described. Over a span of more than six years you assembled a large variety of these substances, in varying quantities, without lawful purpose. Furthermore, I note that some of these substances were stored in your 11th floor flat, situated within a high rise building.  By implication, in the immediate vicinity this was a densely populated residential area. These items were found by chance by the fire service, who had attended to extinguish a fire in that building. That circumstance may be eloquent of why possession of such substances without lawful purpose is made illegal. The other flat was also within a building containing a number of other flats. The number and nature of the explosive substances you possessed, the places where you chose to store these and the lengthy period of time during which you did so lead me to conclude that there is no alternative to a custodial sentence. 

Having regard to the serious nature of the crime to which you have pled guilty and what has been said on your behalf, the sentence I impose is one of five years. In the light of the early plea, I have discounted this to 40 months.

 The sentence I impose will take into account the period you were held on remand in respect of this offence and will be backdated to 22 April 2014.

However, in order to protect the public from serious harm to you on release, I shall also make a supervised release order. Accordingly, I order that on your release from custody you will be under the supervision of the local authority for a period of 12 months.

The effect of that order is that you will be placed under the supervision of a supervising officer for 12 months. During that period, you will report to the supervising officer allocated to you in a manner and at intervals specified by him or her. You will report to that officer as he or she requires and you will keep your supervising officer advised of your current address. You must comply with any other requirement your supervising officer may reasonably require.

I wish to make it clear that if you breach the order, you are liable to be brought back to court and returned to custody for all or any part of a period equal to the time which the order has to run after the date of your failure to comply with its terms.

Accordingly, I sentence you to the period of imprisonment I have specified, and in addition to that custodial sentence, I make a supervised release order in the terms I have indicated.”