A telecoms engineer has been jailed for six-and-a-half years for plotting to attack phone masts as part of a plan to bring down the Government.
Conspiracy theorist Oliver Lewin was convicted last month of a single charge of preparing terrorist acts, despite claiming his comments to undercover security operatives were part of a fantasy.
The 38-year-old, of Ferrers Road, Coalville, Leicestershire, was convicted after being accused of carrying out reconnaissance, purchasing equipment and tools and seeking to recruit like-minded individuals to help him target vital national infrastructure.
A trial was told Lewin, who had previously worked on installing and maintaining radio masts, carried out meticulous research online but had caused no damage before his arrest.
He was detained in late August 2021 after describing himself as being on a “war footing” against the UK Government and joining a Telegram group which had been infiltrated by undercover police officers.
The court was told some of the anti-Government messages sent by Lewin expressed antisemitic hostility.
Passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, Judge Paul Farrer KC said lies and false claims made by Lewin had included attempts to convince undercover officers that trips to a garage to buy beer were in fact reconnaissance of potential targets.
The judge told Lewin: “The difficulty I must confront, is separating out what you actually intended from your many untruths and exaggerations.
“In approaching the question of what you genuinely intended, the starting point is the jury’s conclusion that between 24th July and 25th August 2021, you held an intention to commit an act of terror and took at least some preparatory steps to bring that about.
“In this respect, and being faithful to the jury’s verdict, I conclude that you intended to attack communication transmitters by cutting cables, either on the masts or running underground.
“You told your online contacts that you were going to act when Covid passports were introduced, and you appear to have believed that this was likely to occur in September 2021.
“Your plan was to cause significant and lasting damage to transmitters in the East Midlands.”
But the judge added: “At the time of the indictment, you were socially isolated, depressed and lacking in self-worth. These features led you into telling many lies about the extent of your terrorist activities.
“Your objective was to influence the Government, although in reality the prospects of you successfully doing so were remote in the extreme.
“In light of all of the evidence, I conclude that at the time of your arrest your plans were far from complete, and your intended terrorist action was not imminent.
“Your autism impacted upon your ability to make rational choices and exercise appropriate judgment. For these reasons, I am satisfied that your responsibility is substantially reduced by your mental disorder.”
Lewin, who has no previous convictions and has already spent 507 days on remand, was told he will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence before parole can be considered.
Police said Lewin made searches related to a number of masts in Leicestershire and Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands.
He told undercover officers that Sutton Coldfield was an “exceptionally high value target”, suggesting “fire-bombing” sheds there.
Prior to sentencing, defence barrister Andrew Hall KC said Lewin had lied and exaggerated in his dealings with the undercover officers as his “personal obsessions simply overwhelmed him.”
Mr Hall added that Lewin had been immersed in a “sinister world of Covid conspiracy” after being “dragged down a rabbit hole” while online.
Lewin had the capacity and knowledge to have interfered with communications infrastructure, his lawyer said, but had not caused any damage.
The defence lawyer told the court: “He is plainly skilled and highly intelligent in some ways. He had not put a foot wrong before the Covid lockdowns.”