In April this year, a teenager left his school’s property to meet an undercover officer that he had met on the darknet. In a series of messages and events that effectively qualify as entrapment in some countries, the officer convinced the teenager—14 at the time—to purchase a machine gun and 100 rounds of ammunition for $180. After the inevitable arrest, a merciful judge freed the defendant on a conditional bail that blocked all internet access. Months later, in order to further his schooling, he returned to court to request supervised internet access.
The nameless teenager (thanks to a media embargo on his identity per the instated age laws) gave conflicting stories to the undercover (UC) officer and to the arrest authorities. And to the judge. He either purchased the weapon for his “friend” or to intimidate an unknown person. (Intimidation with 100 rounds of ammunition may be real concern here.) The judge denied a complete bail, but settled on a strict house arrest that forbid even touching an electronic device. The prosecution explained that the teenager would likely destroy evidence if freed.
As of September 18, he had not destroyed any evidence, but needed to use an electronic device and accessed the internet. He explained that, in order to complete his General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), he needed access to the internet. He had no complaints about the access being completely supervised and neither did the UC officer who had feared the teen would delete evidence. She, according to a now-deleted post from the Coleraine Times, said that she would be happy too see this bail change – as long as it was supervised computer and internet access.
The 14-year-old had slipped up during the deal, the UC officer claimed at the first hearing. He, most strikingly, felt the need to justify his purchase to her. He explained that the gun was for a “Jamaican friend.” The gun, while likely the most irrelevant dynamic in an illegal weapon deal, was reportedly a “Russian PPSh43 submachine gun.” One known “PPSh” (Shpagin) model exists: the PPSh-41. The “43” model guns are PPS (Sudayev) builds. The PPS-43. (A company in Poland, in fairness, created the PPS-43C: the only semi-automatic variant). References to the PPSh-43 on the internet are either mistaken or in reference to the rare custom conversions to create this fictional model.
Initial media reports mentioning the PPSh-41 likely misinterpreted the official statement. If not, the teenager paid $185 for 100 rounds of ammunition and a fictional firearm. (More fictional than the deactivated model the “vendor” had sold the teen). Also, aside from buying a gun online and meeting in person, the teenager neglected to notice that not a single functioning PPS model could be purchased for under $180. Being 14 and buying guns on the darknet is difficult.
District Judge Liam McNally, at the mid-September bail restructuring hearing, granted the request for internet access. Any and all access must be under the supervision of his teachers while anywhere but his home. And while at home, under the watch of one of his parents, he is now permitted to use the internet—for homework purposes only—between 5pm and 8pm.
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