Parents of British man who joined IS spared jail

British couple who sent money to son in IS territories spared jail
3 min read
22 June, 2019
Jack Letts traveled to IS territories in Syria and is now held by Kurdish forces.
Jack Letts has said he wants to return home [Getty]

The parents who a British man who moved to Syria to aid the Islamic State group were found guilty Friday of attempting to send money to their son, but avoided jail.

Organic farmer John Letts, 58, and ex-Oxfam fundraiser Sally Lane, 56, were given suspended jail sentences after the court ruled they were acting as any parents when they tried to send money to their 23-year-old son in Syria. 

They say they believed their son, Jack Letts, was in mortal danger and trapped in Raqqa, Syria as he begged for them to send cash.

"We tried to do the right thing," the couple said in a statement. "We fully cooperated with the police and asked them repeatedly for help. They promised they would help us, but instead of helping us, they used the information we provided to prosecute us."

Prosecutor Alison Morgan said the couple "turned a blind eye to the obvious" to the fact that Letts had moved to the Middle East and become an extremist. 

The parents had been warned not to send money at risk of prosecution, but chose to ignore the advice, authories sent.

The couple sent - or tried to send - 1,723 pounds ($2,188) to their son, who was dubbed Jihadi Jack. After nearly 20 hours the jury found them guilty of one charge of funding terrorism.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard sentenced the pair to 15 months' imprisonment but suspended the sentence for 12 months because of the "very special circumstances of this case".

"It was one thing for parents to be optimistic about their children and I do acknowledge he is your son, who you love very much," he said. "But in this context you did lose sight of realities."

The parents had received repeated warnings about their son's burgeoning extremist views. Instead they chose to believe he had travelled to the Middle East on a "grand adventure" to learn Arabic in Jordan in May 2014. 

Later he moved to Kuwait and married and by September 2014, Lane testified that her son phoned from Syria and that his father begged him to come home. Police raided the family home in 2015.

Later that year, Jack Letts posted on Facebook that he would like to perform a "martyrdom operation" on a group of British soldiers. Police warned the family that "sending money to Jack is the same as sending money to ISIS".

He then hinted that he wanted to come home and his parents attempted send more money but the funds were blocked and the couple was arrested.

Jack Letts, now 23, is being held by Kurdish authorities in northern Syria, and said he wants to return home.

"It's hard to imagine the kind of agony they must be going through because of the choices their son made," said Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes. But she nonetheless hoped their convictions would send a message.

"It's not for us to choose which laws to follow and which not to," she said.