An autistic teenager who told police he wanted to be “on the news” after throwing a six-year-old boy from the Tate Modern viewing platform has been jailed for life.
Jonty Bravery, 18, who admitted attempted murder of the child in December last year, appeared at the Old Bailey via video link on Friday, wearing wearing a white T-shirt and dark shorts.
The court was told Bravery “laughed and shrugged” when he was shown the CCTV of the incident.
Prosecutor Deanna Heer said: “He said he wanted to be on the news so that everyone, especially his parents, could see what a mistake they had made by not putting him in hospital.”
Heer said Bravery had conducted a variety of searches including, “Are you guaranteed to escape prison if you have autism?”, “What are the chances of death if you push into the River Thames?” and a web page entitled “How to get away with rape.”
A report into Bravery’s behaviour, carried out after the incident, found “his callousness and the striking lack of emotional empathy… is not typical of autism but is more typically found in psychopathy”.
The teenager was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 15 years to be served.
Bravery sat with his T-shirt pulled over his head, then crouched on the floor next to the chair with his back to the videolink camera as details of the case were read out.
Sentencing Bravery, of Ealing in west London, Justice McGowan said: “The fear he (the victim) must have experienced and the horror his parents felt are beyond imagination.
“You had intended to kill someone that day – you almost killed that six-year-old boy.”
McGowan said Bravery’s autism spectrum disorder (ASD) did not explain the attack, and acknowledged how expert evidence confirmed he posed “a grave and immediate risk to the public”.
“You will spend the greater part – if not all – of your life detained… you may never be released,” she added.
Bravery said he wanted to highlight his apparent discontent with his treatment for a host of mental health issues when he committed the offence in front of horrified onlookers at the London tourist attraction on 4 August last year.
CCTV footage apparently showed Bravery, then 17, looking over the edge of the 100ft high art gallery balcony, 10 storeys up, before seizing the young victim by the limbs and hurling him over the edge.
Bravery then sought out Tate staff and confessed: “I think I’ve murdered someone, I’ve just thrown someone off the balcony.”
He told police he heard voices in his head telling him to kill or injure someone.
Bravery had confessed to psychiatrists that he had researched online for the easiest way to kill someone.
Among the terms he searched for were “Guaranteed ways to go to jail”, and “Where can I buy sulphuric acid in Northolt?”
Bravery later told police he had to prove a point “to every idiot” who said he had no mental health problems – and asked if the incident was going to “be on the news”.
He said: “I wanted to be on the news, who I am and why I did it, so when it is official no-one can say anything else.”
During the trial, defence counsel Philippa McAtasney QC said her client was immature, and that it “beggars belief” that he was deemed suitable to go out unsupervised.
She pointed out that Bravery’s parents “abhor” what their son did and cannot forgive him – but also feel “let down by the system”.
Following sentencing, a spokesman from Hammersmith & Fulham Council said a serious case review had been ordered.
It said: “We wish to extend our sincere sympathies to the young child and his family after the terrible event at Tate Modern in August 2019.
“We have been pleased to learn of the progress the child is making. A serious case review is under way. We are co-operating fully and will learn from the findings.”
Bravery’s victim, who cannot be named because of a reporting restriction due to his age, suffered a bleed to the brain, spinal fractures, and broken legs and arms.
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The latest update on a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than £200,000 for the boy’s medical treatment in his native France, said he remained in a wheelchair and had problems eating, speaking and moving, but was continuing to make progress.
The update, posted on behalf of his family on May 15, stated: “There is still a long way to go but we are holding on.”
A victim impact statement from the victim’s parents, taken six months after the incident, said they had not left their son’s side at all, other than for just a couple of hours.
They only returned to the family home on rare occasions to collect belongings. Either they, or a grandparent, stayed with him overnight in hospital.
Describing Bravery’s actions as “unspeakable”, the couple said: “Words cannot express the horror and fear his actions have brought up on us and our son who now, six months on, is wondering why he’s in hospital.
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“How can he not see in every stranger a potential ‘villain’ who could cause him immense pain and suffering?
“We have been so scared of losing him that now it is impossible for us to spend more than a few hours away from him.”
In a series of social media posts, which have since been deleted, Piers Bravery – the father of the defendant – attempted to raise awareness of autism and its treatment.
In one tweet sent to health secretary Matt Hancock, less than three months before the incident, Mr Bravery said: “Yes, @MattHancock, you do have a duty.
“You are a public servant so do your job and stop more children dying and being abused in these repugnant institutions.”
No members of either the victim’s or Bravery’s family were present in court during sentencing on Friday.
Bravery, who has autistic spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and who is believed to have a personality disorder, pleaded guilty to attempted murder last December.
He was living in supported accommodation and had autism, and received specialist care following an assault on a female care worker in October 2017, but was “frequently aggressive to staff”.
He was also abusive and failed to comply with boundaries and lashed out at staff every “six weeks or so”, prosecutor Deanna Heer said.
He has been held at Broadmoor Hospital since mid-October.