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.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.