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R v El Matari [2021] NSWSC 1260

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 1 count of doing an act in preparation for, or planning of, terrorist acts contrary to s 101.6(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, and 1 count of preparing to engage in the commission of an offence against s 119.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Offender sentenced for additional s 16BA offences.

Nature and Circumstance: Offender was motivated by extremist ideals to go to Afghanistan to join the Mujahadin in Khorasan province and to engage in some form of hostile activity. Offending took place over a period of 9 months and continued after the offender was arrested. Offender made enquiries about obtaining explosive material and firearms and purchasing military clothing. Offender identified specific targets of attack including Australian public institutions where a large number of people could be harmed by any such attack. Offending falls at or just below the mid-range of offences of this kind.

Contrition: Offender pleaded guilty and tendered a letter to the court, and when interviewed by psychologist, expressed regret. Offender did not give sworn evidence in support of those statements. Statements are to be given some weight.

Age: Offender was between 19 and 20 when they committed the offence. At the age of 18 the offender had been arrested in Lebanon for attempting to join and fight with IS. Extent of offender’s immaturity is tempered by the fact that they travelled to Lebanon and were caught and punished. By the time the offender returned to Australia it would be hard to put much weight, if any, on the offender’s lack of maturity. The offender ought to have learned their lesson by then.

Rehabilitation: Offender has denied any current interest in engaging in acts of violent extremism however they have not been exposed to any intervention as yet. Offender has had some beneficial interaction with the Muslim prison Chaplain but this has been limited. Prospects of rehabilitation at this stage can only be regarded as slight though this may improve. Offender’s PTSD and complex mental health symptomatology will make time in custody more onerous.

Specific Deterrence: Offender was attracted to and wished to participate in violence driven by extremist IS ideology. Protection of the community includes incapacitation e.g. preventing the offender from carrying out the terrorist act which was their ultimate intention.

Offender sentenced to 7 years 4 months imprisonment with a 5 year and 6 month non-parole period.
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