(New York, N.Y.) – Three years ago, Darren Osbourne drove a van into a crowd of worshippers outside The Finsbury Park Mosque, killing one and wounding ten people. Osbourne was not a devout ideologue. He had become radicalized in less than a month through the rapid consumption of far-right online material. He devoured social media posts from former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson, members of Britain First, and other right-wing extremists.
The fascist propaganda left him a “ticking time bomb,” as he began developing a warped belief system and viewing himself as an extremist right-wing soldier.
None of the material Osborne viewed from the extreme right crossed the line into being either criminal or breaking current terrorism laws. As such, despite his Internet history, his acrimonious rants outlining his desire to kill Muslims and the suicide note he left filled with racist vitriol, Osbourne was charged with murder and attempted murder—not with terror offenses.
David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), released the following statement today:
“CEP extends its sympathies to the victims of the Finsbury Park attack.
“Extremists from each end of the spectrum are continuing to exploit the loopholes in British laws. Many of these actors, be they far-right extremists or radical Islamists, are operating with impunity, particularly online, as they continue to skirt some aspects of the law while intentionally inciting violence. Darren Osbourne was undoubtedly inspired by the extremist, hate-filled language of the far-right that proliferates online. The impact of radical or extremist language needs to be recognized and reprimanded by law.
“Recently, the British Commission for Countering Extremism revealed that it has gathered widespread evidence that many hate crimes are not reaching the threshold of the law, leaving the authorities powerless to stop many attacks that are not recognized as crimes under terrorism legislation or hate laws.
“CEP welcomes the Commission for Countering Extremism’s decision to launch a legal review into the issue and echoes their call for an overhaul of the U.K. government’s strategy to combat hate crimes and hate speech.”