Nazi sympathiser told by judge to read classics after terror conviction ‘enjoyed Shakespeare more than Jane Austen’

A Nazi sympasthiser who was told he could avoid a prison sentence for a terrorism offence if he read classic literature has told the sentencing judge that he "enjoyed Shakespeare more than Jane Austen".

Former university student Ben John, who police described as a white supremist with a neo-Nazi ideology, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence at Leicester Crown Court in August last year.

The 21-year-old was invited by a judge to read famous works including Pride And Prejudice and A Tale of Two Cities, instead of white-supremacy literature, after he was given a five-year serious crime prevention order.

He had been found guilty by a jury of possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

At a review hearing at the same court on Thursday, Judge Timothy Spencer QC asked John to write down the books he had read since they had last spoken as they were not contained in his report.

"It is clear that you have tried to sort your life out," the judge said.

"I would like to know what you have read of the classic literature you told the jury you were interested in.

"There is nothing in the report on that and I want you to write down now what literature you have read since we last met."

The charge against John, 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 the 21-year-old, of Addison Drive, Lincoln, had also amassed 67,788 documents in bulk downloads onto hard drives, containing "a wealth" of white supremist and antisemitic material.

‘I still enjoyed Jane Austen by a degree’

Telling Judge Spencer what he had read since the sentencing hearing, John said: "I enjoyed Shakespeare more than I did Jane Austen but I still enjoyed Jane Austen by a degree."

"Well I find that encouraging," the judge replied.

Timothy John Spencer QC said he was "encouraged" by John's efforts to seek employment

Credit: David Barrett

Judge Spencer also told John he acknowledged "publicity of this case" had affected his rehabilitation.

The former student was told to attend court again in six months’ time where the judge would check his progress.

"I am encouraged about what you have written out for me and I am encouraged by your efforts to seek employment and I wish you well with that," Judge Spencer said.

The Attorney General has asked the Court of Appeal to review the "unduly lenient" sentence handed to the defendant.

The decision by Suella Braverman QC to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal came after anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate sent an open letter, asking for the case to be considered under the unduly lenient sentence (ULS) scheme.

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

At the time of the conviction, Judge Spencer told John’s barrister, Harry Bentley: "He has by the skin of his teeth avoided imprisonment."

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