Extremist told to read classic novels JAILED as appeal court reverses bizarre sentence


Ben John, who was described by police as being a white supremacist was convicted of having a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook on a computer hard drive in August. The Anarchist Cookbook is a book containing instructions for the manufacture of explosives and illicit drugs. Mr John was initially given a two-year suspended sentence for possessing a terrorist document and was ordered by Judge Timothy Spencer QC to read classic literature such as the works of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare. The Court of Appeal has now ruled that the original sentence was “unlawful” and the 22-year-old will now serve two years in prison.

He will also serve an extra year on an extended licence.

Lord Justice Holroyde said: “We are satisfied that there must be a sentence of immediate imprisonment.”

The ex-student, from Lincoln, was initially given a suspended sentence because he promised to stop-his interest in far-right ideologies.

However, general solicitor Alex Chalk, who presented the appeal in court said that Mr John “did not comply with that promise.”

Mr Chalk said that Mr John“was, at the time of these offences, a confirmed extremist” and “there are very good reasons” to believe he still may be.

The solicitor added: “We now know that within a week of giving an apparently sincere promise to the judge, he resumed his interest in the far right.”

Mr Chalk stated that Mr John continued to “like” Nazi-themed content online just five days after he was given the suspended sentence.

He added: “It does not bear thinking about if some of this ideology is put into practice.”

As part of his original sentence, Judge Spencer stated that Mr John would be tested on the classical novels he had read.

He said: “When you come to see me every four months I will test you.

And if I think you are bullsh**ing, you will suffer.”

At a hearing earlier this month, Mr John told Judge Spencer: “I enjoyed Shakespeare more than I did Jane Austen but I still enjoyed Jane Austen by a degree.”

Mr John’s sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme.

Lord Justice Holyroyde said that a suspended sentence and licence cannot last for more than two years, thus making Mr John’s sentence “unlawful”.

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Speaking after the hearing, Mr Chalk said: “I referred Ben John’s sentence to the court of appeal, and chose to personally present it, because I believed it to be unduly lenient.

“I am pleased that the court of appeal agreed and chose to increase his sentence today.”

Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope not Hate, an advocacy group which campaigns against racism and fascism, welcomed the new sentence.

Mr Lowles said that far-right extremism is “the fastest growing threat of violence in Britain today”.

He added: “The priority must be a focus on countering radicalisation, especially online, and making it harder for far-right activists to organise and recruit,” he said.

“Ultimately, the main deterrent to most offenders comes in the social cost associated with being caught and convicted.”

Mr John must hand himself into police by 4pm on Thursday.


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