London, England – Anonymous member, hacker Jake Birchall, now 18, will not have to serve time in jail. When he was 16 years old, Birchall was detained for his suspected role in the cyber-attack conspiracy Operation Payback, along with other Anonymous members. The group distributed denial of service (DDoS) to websites whose views they did not agree with. The hackers cost Paypal, Mastercard, and Visa millions, paralyzing computer systems between August 1, 2010 and January 22, 2011.
Birchall has successfully avoided serving jail time for his alleged crimes. A judge in the case ruled Friday that Birchall is affected by “special needs” due to his profound isolation, and is therefore not fit for prison. Birchall met the diagnosed criteria for “certain conditions.” Instead, Judge Peter Testar sentenced Birchall to an 18-month term in youth rehabilitation and a 60-hour unpaid work requirement, according to The Guardian.
Testar warned had he been older Birchall would have likely faced jail time:
“I recognize that when you committed this offence, when you were involved in this conspiracy, you were 16 years old. You should be serving a custodial sentence and a substantial one at that. But I have to sentence you with the fact that you were under 18 when convicted in mind.”
Birchall’s co-accused conspirators were sentenced last week. Christopher Weatherhead, 22 at the time of the crime, received the longest sentence of 18-months in jail. Ashley Rhodes, 28, was given seven months. Peter Gibson, 24, was spared and doled a six-month suspended jail term.
Anonymous is a renowned online activist (hacktivist) group which originated in 2003, who vehemently oppose internet censorship. They retaliate against anti-digital piracy campaigns. They have been accused of hacking various government websites and targeting security corporations and surveillance. Iconically, Anonymous members distinguish themselves by donning Guy Fawkes masks, synonymous to those seen in the 2005 film V for Vendetta.