The case of a 14-year-old teenager who took her own life after right-wing extremists groomed her online should be a ‘wake-up call’, say charities.
Rhianan Rudd has become the youngest woman to be charged with terrorism offences.
Her mother, Emily Carter, said Rudd should be treated like a victim because she was groomed and abused by an American extremist and lured into white supremacist views.
Rudd, who was 15 when she was charged, took her own life at the age of 16 at a children’s home in Nottinghamshire last May.
Nigel Bromage, founder of Exit Hate, a charity that helps divert people away from extremism, said more and more children are falling victim to online grooming by right-wing extremists.
“The youngest we’ve worked with is a nine-year-old boy who was influenced by video games,” he told The Guardian.
“Hearing about Rhianan’s story, we see that journey repeated again and again. Our hearts go out to the affected family and this is definitely a wake-up call to how vulnerable our young people are online.
“Teachers, families, we all need to be able to talk to our young people about these topics, even if they are difficult and make us feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, we’re just opening the door to extremists.”
Hope Not Hate CEO Nick Lowles added that Rudd’s story was “unfortunately another example of how far-right extremism is ruining lives.”
“In recent years, we’ve heard stories of parents whose children were transformed before their eyes after watching extreme online content,” he said.
“It’s important that schools, parents and police think together about how to support children exposed to extreme content online and ensure that our counter-extremism strategy is not seen only through the lens of law and order.”
Rudd was arrested and later charged with criminal charges that were eventually dropped due to the abuses.
Ms Carter told the BBC her daughter should not have been charged.
She said: “They should have seen her as a victim, not a terrorist.
“She is a child, an autistic child. She should be treated like a child who has been groomed and sexually abused.”
When Rudd was arrested in October 2020 after downloading bomb-making instructions and being referred to a program to prevent radicalization.
She was later charged with various crimes in April 2021 and charged with planning the attack.
The charges were dropped a few months later, in December 2021, after evidence was presented that it was prepared and used online by American extremist Christopher Cook.
It was also claimed that she was influenced by her mother’s ex-boyfriend Dax Mallaburn, an American white supremacist, although her mother denied this.
After the criminal charges were dropped, Rudd continued to live in a children’s home in Nottinghamshire and worked with Prevent staff again.
House staff said he was preparing for his GCSE exam.
But last year she was found dead in her room, apparently taking her own life.
The investigation into her death was launched and adjourned in October and will continue later this year.