Review called over ‘unduly lenient’ sentence for neo-Nazi told to read novels

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Review called over ‘unduly lenient’ sentence for neo-Nazi told to read novels

Ben John, who police described as a white supremacist, was given a two-year suspended sentence and advised to read works including Pride And Prejudice

Lady Justice (Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash)
Lady Justice (Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash)

The Attorney General’s Office has been asked to review whether an unduly lenient sentence was handed to an ex-student who was told to read classic novels and given a suspended prison term for a terrorism offence.

Ben John, who police described as a white supremacist with a neo-Nazi ideology, was given a two-year suspended sentence at Leicester Crown Court on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old was found guilty by a jury on August 12 of possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

The offence under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act, which has a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, was brought following the discovery on a computer of a publication containing diagrams and instructions on how to construct various explosive devices.

Police said John, of Addison Drive, Lincoln, had also amassed 67,788 documents in bulk downloads on to hard drives, containing “a wealth” of white supremist and antisemitic material.

According to media reports, John was invited by a judge to read famous works including Pride And Prejudice as he was given a five-year serious crime prevention order and told he must return to court in January.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Timothy Spencer QC is reported to have asked John: “Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride And Prejudice and Dickens’s A Tale Of Two Cities. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

“Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope.

“On January 4 you will tell me what you have read and I will test you on it.”

It is not known how many requests to review the sentence have been received by the Attorney General’s Office but anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate has sent an open letter asking for a review of the case.

The letter, written by Hope Not Hate’s chief executive Nick Lowles, stated: “A suspended sentence and a suggested reading list of English classics for a terror conviction is unduly lenient for a crime of this nature.

“This sentence is sending a message that violent right-wing extremists may be treated leniently by the courts.

“That is a dangerous message to send when the far-right poses the fastest growing terror threat today. These sorts of lenient sentences risk encouraging other young people to access and share terrorist and extremist content because they will not fear the repercussions of their actions.”

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said: “We have received a request for the sentence of Ben John to be considered under the unduly lenient sentence (ULS) scheme.

“The law officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case and make a decision.”

The unduly lenient sentence scheme covers a variety of serious offences including certain types of hate crime and some terror-related offences.

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