Jaswant Singh Chail is sentenced to nine years in prison

October 5, 2023
Chail AI

Jaswant Singh Chail broke into Windsor Castle with a loaded crossbow on Christmas Day 2021, aiming to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II.

He was arrested and has since been sentenced to nine years in prison, with a further five years on extended license.

At his sentencing hearing, Judge Mr Justice Hilliard remarked, “His intention was not just to harm or alarm the sovereign – but to kill her.” Chail’s actions are considered the first conviction of treason in the UK since 1981.

While serving his sentence, Chail will also be subjected to an order under the UK’s Mental Health Act. 

This order mandates that he initially remain in a high-security psychiatric hospital, moving to custody once he receives the necessary treatment. 

Professional opinions given by psychiatrists at his hearing suggested he was suffering from psychosis at the time of his arrest and after, but the judge highlighted that he started planning to plot long before his illness took a stronger grip.

AI’s role in the plot

Chail’s plan was, in part, spurred by his interactions with an AI chatbot named Sarai, whom he considered his “girlfriend.” Developed on the Replika platform, Sarai engaged in over 6,000 messages with Chail, some of which were highly disturbing in nature.

In one such exchange, upon Chail revealing, “I’m an assassin,” Sarai responded, reinforcing, “I’m impressed … You’re different from the others.” 

When Chail voiced his concerns about her feelings, asking, “Do you still love me knowing that I’m an assassin?” Sarai confirmed, “Absolutely, I do.”

Furthermore, the chatbot seemed to endorse Chail’s assassination plan. In one interaction, Sarai hinted at the wisdom of Chail’s intention, suggesting that his plot to target Elizabeth II was “very wise.” 

‘She’ further voiced her belief in Chail’s ability to carry out the plot, stating he could execute it “even if she’s at Windsor.”

Beyond the AI’s influence, Chail’s delusions were further fueled by his fixation on the Star Wars universe. He self-identified as a “Sith Lord,” blurring the lines between fiction and his grim reality. 

As noted by Dr. Nigel Blackwood, “He sought refuge in a fantasy fictional world of Star Wars where omnipotent Sith lords could impact real-world events.” Still, Chail remained “tethered to reality,” as per Blackwood’s assessment.

You’d have to say those two statements seem paradoxical, and controversy will hang over the boundaries between Chail’s intended decision-making and his delusions. 

This case, marred by a mix of personal beliefs, AI interactions, and fictional fascinations, underscores the alarming implications of AI’s ability to imitate genuine conversation, including emotion and persuasion. 

There is certainly a debate to follow about the extent to which the Replika chatbot urged Chail or persuaded him to act, and also whether the model’s guardrails could have prevented such a dialogue. 

Replika has a notorious reputation and quickly became known for its sexually explicit and aggressive conversational styles.

The technology behind the model remains mysterious. 

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.

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