A PRIMARY school caretaker was jailed for at least five years today after a judge branded him “a terrorist” for carrying out a nationwide letter bomb campaign which injured eight people.
Miles Cooper, 27, was given an indeterminate sentence for sending seven explosive devices made from party poppers and glass or nails through the post.
He targeted offices in London, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Birmingham and Swansea in January and February this year as part of a campaign against what he claimed was a “surveillance-obsessed society”.
He was found guilty by a jury at Oxford Crown Court yesterday of 11 charges relating to explosive devices.
When Cooper returned for sentence today, Judge Julian Hall ruled he was a danger to the public and told him he would serve at least five years, minus 116 days already spent in custody, before he could be considered for parole.
He told him: “First and foremost you are a terrorist, let there be no mistake. Anyone who tries through violence or threat of violence to change the political will is a terrorist and that is precisely what you did.”
The jury had heard victims, including a pregnant woman, were showered in glass fragments or nails when they opened the padded A5-size envelopes.
Cooper did not deny sending the letters to three forensic science laboratories, Capita who run London’s Congestion Charge, an accountancy firm dealing with speed cameras, the DVLA and a residential address, but did deny intending to cause any injury.
The judge heard the attack cost Capita up to £1 million while the others also lost thousands.
When police raided his home in Cherry Hinton, near Cambridge, they found a “bomb factory” with three more devices “packed and ready to go”.
The court today heard the full extent of the frightening amount of explosive material and weapons Cooper had amassed in his bedroom.
Gareth Branston, prosecuting, said officers found a variety of household items which had been adapted to make explosives and also chemicals TATP and HMTD that experts said are used by Islamic terrorists.
He told how investigators discovered 31 fireworks, four packets of sparklers, 23 packs of party poppers and six packs of incense sticks.
They also found timers, wires, pipe bombs, drain cleaner, weed killer and moth balls which could all be used to create an explosive effect.
Among the weapons discovered were a small home-made crossbow, a home-made rifle, a machete and two air rifles.
He also had a number of books relating to weapons and chemistry with titles including The Shooters Handbook and High Explosives And Repellents.
Mr Branston said: “The Crown suggests that the defendant’s motivation was as much to do with his interest in explosives as anything else.
“Contrary to his assertion he was downgrading his devices, he was capable of upping the ante considerably.”
Authorities also examined his computer and found web searches for “letter bomb”. They discovered he had honed his bomb-making skills with instructions from the internet and had been swapping tips with other web users about weapons on a chat forum.
Judge Hall said Cooper’s ’cowardly’ actions had caused lasting psychological damage to his victims and massive disruption to the organisations he targeted.
He told him: “Either what you did was rational, in which case it was evil, or it was irrational which, in my mind, makes it even more frightening.
“You didn’t follow up your campaign of terror with any attempts at publicity trying to make your point. It makes one doubt your motives. I think you had a double motive and simply didn’t care if people were hurt.
“You come across as a quite unemotional young man with little empathy for others.
“There is nothing in the evidence to suggest in any way that you intended to stop your campaign if you had not been arrested.
“Why should I believe your experiments had ceased? Why would you ever have stopped your campaign?
“I have no hesitation in finding you a serious risk of harm to the public. If ever the public should be protected from someone it is you.”
Cooper claimed in court his campaign was in protest at Britain’s “authoritarian” Government and he resorted to violent means as his peaceful protests against measures imposed by Tony Blair’s administration had failed.
He told the court: “The overall goal was to shut down certain departments in certain buildings and ultimately to highlight my cause.”
Michael Wolkind QC, defending him, said he was “lost and obsessed by his misguided campaign” and said Cooper told a psychiatrist: “An urban guerrilla is useless when discovered”.
Cooper released a statement after being jailed which said he hoped legitimate organisations would continue to protest against the Government proposals in relation to ID schemes and an extended DNA database.
He was found guilty of eight counts of causing bodily injury by means of an explosive substance, two counts of using an explosive substance with intent to disable and one count of making explosives.