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Sex offender who crashed car into Downing Street gates spared jail

Police at the scene after a car crashed into the gates of Downing Street (PA)
Police at the scene after a car crashed into the gates of Downing Street (PA)

A sex offender who drove his car into the Downing Street gates in an “attack on democracy” has avoided prison.

Seth Kneller, 43, launched his Kia Ceed at the gates protecting the Prime Minister’s residence on May 25 as pedestrians fled the scene and armed police watched.

In a TikTok video posted earlier that day, he blamed politicians for society’s ills and said “someone has to pay”.

He said he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism and asked: “What is there to live for anymore?”

The car’s impact caused the outer gates to swing open and the main gates to shake, Southwark Crown Court was told on Tuesday.

Downing Street incident
Kneller slowed for pedestrians before ploughing his Kia into the gates at Downing Street, a court has been told (PA)

Officers with firearms shouted “armed police” and detained Kneller after his car came to a stop.

As he was being detained, he told them he had “had enough”, adding: “I need help.”

When his phone was examined as part of the police investigation it was found to contain three category A indecent images of children, the most serious type, and five category C images.

The victims depicted were aged eight to 12.

Kneller was found to have accessed a website known to contain indecent images of children 393 times.

The defendant, from Crewe in Cheshire, pleaded guilty to a count of dangerous driving earlier this month and two of making indecent images of children at a hearing in June.

Prosecutor Alex Krikler said: “Shortly before 4.30pm on May 25 2023 the defendant, quite deliberately, drove his vehicle, a silver Kia hatchback, at the gates of Downing Street.

“The defendant had driven down Whitehall towards Parliament Square and manoeuvred his vehicle so he was facing the gates.

“He drove at speed across the carriageway, slowing down to allow pedestrians to move out of the way before striking the outer gates with his vehicle. The impact caused them to swing open.

“The defendant’s vehicle then collided with the main gates. They remained shut but were seen to shake with the force of the impact. The car then came to a halt.

“There is CCTV footage that shows… pedestrians running away from the scene following the collision.

“There were a number of armed police, unsurprisingly, on duty… who became aware of what the defendant had just done.

“They immediately drew their weapons and approached and shouted, ‘Armed police’. Officers approached and took the defendant out of the vehicle. He had just raised his hands.”

The prosecutor said Kneller’s actions were “pre-planned and deliberate”, which “clearly raised concerns” the attack was a terrorist one.

He added: “He was well aware that armed officers were on duty and that the consequences of his actions could have been catastrophic.”

Downing Street incident
A police recovery truck lifts away the Kia (PA)

Kneller had no previous convictions but was cautioned for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2007.

In mitigation, his barrister Charles Hannaford said his client was suffering from a “mental health breakdown” at the time of the Downing Street crash.

He added: “This is not an individual who has thought through the consequences of their actions and how they would affect another individual.”

Judge Christopher Hehir said Kneller launched an “attack on democracy” but was persuaded to spare him prison.

He told him: “You quite deliberately performed a highly dangerous manoeuvre. There was a real risk of serious injury or death to police officers or innocent members of the public.

“There are always members of the public thronging in the vicinity of 10 Downing Street.

“You chose to launch a violent attack on a place which is a government location and in many ways a symbol of democracy.

“Your violent attack on it must be regarded by the courts as being of the utmost seriousness.

“You are not guilty of any contact abuse of children, but if it was not for people like you who consume these images, the abuse in question would most likely not take place.”

The judge said the defendant’s lack of previous convictions, early guilty pleas, the fact he has served the equivalent of an eight-month prison sentence, mental health and “good prospect” of rehabilitation persuaded him to spare the defendant jail.

Kneller’s 15-month prison term was suspended for two years and he must complete 30 rehabilitation days and 27 days of a separate rehabilitation programme.

He was also banned from driving for 18 months, can no longer use the phone and car used in the offending and was made the subject of a seven-year sexual harm prevention order.

The bespectacled defendant, who wore a blue shirt and purple tie, said “thank you, I am very grateful, your honour” after being spared jail.