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Flame-thrower threat to students was "cry for help", court hears

Flame-thrower threat to students was

Friday 03 February 2023

Flame-thrower threat to students was "cry for help", court hears

Friday 03 February 2023

A 25-year-old man is in custody after he threatened to use an axe and home-made flame-thrower on students at his former school in an apparent "cry for help".

Details of the case of Daniel McMillan - whose threats towards Les Quennevais pupils were described as "idle" - can now be published after reporting restrictions imposed last month were lifted.

The Magistrate’s Court heard that McMillan had enough butane gas in his home to make a deadly weapon, and a power-washer in his home as well as an axe.

He threatened to use them on the pupils, saying he was bullied when he was at the school.

During a hearing at the beginning of last month, McMillan pleaded guilty to using threatening and abusive language likely to cause alarm or distress and has since been remanded in custody. During that hearing, Advocate James Bell, defending, said that his client had no intention of acting on the threat, and asked  for him to be allowed bail.

He said: "This was a cry for help. They were idle threats."

The advocate added that McMillan had struggled with depression and added: "His only intention was to get some additional help. The right thing to do would be to allow him to go home."

On 10 January, Magistrate Bridget Shaw imposed restrictions (at a hearing that the media was barred from attending) preventing details of the case from being reported, under an Article 89 Order of the Criminal Procedure (Jersey) Law 2018 to "protect the administration of justice".

The JEP published an essay criticising a lack of transparency and open justice in the island on 21 January, highlighting that journalists were increasingly finding restrictions placed on what they can report.

The restrictions on the case were lifted on 24 January, after the prosecution indicated it no longer considered them necessary.

McMillan appeared via videolink for an update hearing on Thursday, at which the court heard that there had been a delay in finding a suitable establishment in the UK where he could be transferred for a specialist assessment of his mental state. This assessment had been recommended by clinicians in Jersey.

Legal Adviser Francis Burak, prosecuting, said the specialist facility in Essex had been unable to accept patients in January as a result of a covid-19 outbreak, but that an update on this situation was expected on Monday.

Advocate Bell said that the man was "being done a disservice" as a result of the delay, as he had spent four weeks in custody in Jersey for an offence which would attract a maximum sentence of three months’ imprisonment.

Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris said that the underlying context of the case involved "a very serious threat" and that there were "reasonable grounds to believe there was a risk of harm to the public" should McMillan be bailed.

Mr Harris directed that McMillan should remain in custody until a further update scheduled for Tuesday.

In a letter addressed to parents on 9 January, Les Quennevais head teacher Sarah Hague said: "You may be aware of reports circulating about Les Quennevais School.

"For legal reasons it is not possible for me to comment or to provide any further details at this stage.

"Please be assured that safeguarding students and staff in our school is my priority.

"I have been working closely with the States of Jersey Police who are working extremely hard on this case alongside colleagues from the Department for Children, Young People, Education and Skills and other partner agencies
who are doing all that we can to support the investigation.’

She asked parents to "avoid speculation, especially in school and on social media, as comments may inadvertently be damaging to the investigation".

Click here to read the JEP's essay on open justice.

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