Terrorism charge: Police allege Sanctuary Point man was going to blow up electricity substation

Police undertake a search of a property at whihc Joshua Lucas was arrested. Image: AFP
Police undertake a search of a property at whihc Joshua Lucas was arrested. Image: AFP

A 21-year-old Sanctuary Point man charged with a terrorism offence was allegedly planning to blow up a South Coast electrical substation with an improvised explosive device (IED).

Joshua Bruce Lucas did not apply for bail, which was formally refused in Nowra Local Court on Monday, March 16.

In an appearance that lasted less than two minutes, Lucas was brought before the court to answer the charge of acts done in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Police allege Lucas has right wing ideologies including "being anti-government, anti-Semitic, has Neo-Nazi interests and anti-indigenous interests which evolved into ideologies of hate against lots of different groups".

Lucas was arrested on Saturday, March 14, after a joint operation by Australian Federal Police, NSW Police and the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team.

Police executed search warrants on his home at Sanctuary Point Road, Sanctuary Point and at a rural property at Parma over the weekend.

Police alleged Lucas was attempting and planning to purchase or acquire military equipment, including firearms, and items capable of making improvised explosive devices.

Investigations into Lucas began in February 2020 after NSW JCTT investigators became aware of a number of online posts containing an extreme right wing and anti-government ideology, and began an investigation into potential criminal activity.

Police said the search warrants recovered a number of items including electronic devices, tactical equipment and three soft gel (paintball) firearms at Sanctuary Point, while four registered firearms were seized at the Parma residence, which is the home of an associate of Lucas's.

Police prosecutor Phil Morrison applied for and was granted a suppression order over some of the facts handed up to Magistrate Gabriel Fleming. It is understood the suppression order covers some of the operational activities during the investigation.

In a joint press conference, Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism Scott Lee and NSW Police Force Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton said police became concerned about Lucas's escalating criminal actions in the past week and made the decision to execute search warrants on the properties and vehicles.

It is understood an electrical substation was just one possible target, with Assistant Commissioner Lee saying it had the potential to disrupt the electricity distribution on the South Coast.

"There were a number of options being considered," he said.

And while he wouldn't speculate that attempts would be made to blow up the substation with explosives, he alleged Lucas was trying to source material to construct an IED.

"There are online posts related to potential firearms he would like to access but had not been able to at this stage," he said.

He said while there had been no moves to finalise any attack plans, police took the opportunity to arrest him.

"He posed a real threat hence the disruption we took on the planning he was undertaking," he said.

"There were a number of low-capability type attack [plans] being undertaken fairly consistent with the overall assessment of terrorism threats across the country.

"We felt we had to move to disrupt his attack planning to ensure no attack occurred. We took it very seriously."

Police wouldn't comment on the imminence of an attack but Assistant Commissioner Lee said in terms of the engagement that occurred in the past week, posts made and activities purportedly to have happened, including the potential testing of an IED, police moved to ensure no attack occurred.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton said Lucas was not known to police.

"We really only identified him and our interest evolved in the last few months," he said. "Outside of that, he was not someone who had been an issue for us."

He said Lucas was unemployed and was living at home with his family.

The officers wouldn't comment on how or what platforms Lucas was posting on, as it was part of the ongoing investigations, which would also determine if there was any further evidence of "people's involvement in the real world".

The investigation is ongoing.

Lucas will reappear in court on May 11.

This story Man charged with terrorism offence was going to blow up electricity substation first appeared on South Coast Register.