Ben John: Extremist ordered to read books is jailedon January 19, 2022 at 4:40 pm

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Ben John, who was told to read Austen and Shakespeare, has his original suspended sentence quashed.

Ben John outside Leicester Crown Court

A man told by a judge to read classic literature after being found guilty of a terrorism offence will be jailed after a suspended sentence was quashed.

Ben John, who police described as a white supremacist, was given a two-year suspended sentence in August.

The 22-year-old was convicted of having a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook on a computer hard drive.

The Court of Appeal ruled the original sentence was unlawful and ordered John to serve two years in prison.

He will also spend a further year on extended licence.

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

John, of Addison Drive in Lincoln, who attended the hearing via videolink, must hand himself into police by 16:00 GMT on Thursday.

Pride and Prejudice

Last year, police said John had collected tens of thousands of documents in bulk downloads on to hard drives, which contained “a wealth” of white supremacist and anti-Semitic material.

The ex-student was charged under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act, and found guilty by a jury of one count.

Alongside a suspended sentence he was handed a five-year serious crime prevention order, with Judge Timothy Spencer QC ordering him to read famous works such as Shakespeare plays and Pride and Prejudice.

At a review hearing earlier this month the judge quizzed John about his literature reading, having received a “largely positive” report about him.

The defendant explained he had “enjoyed Shakespeare more than Jane Austen”, and the judge concluded there had been “encouraging” progress.

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) referred his sentence to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme.

It came after campaign group Hope Not Hate wrote an open letter calling for a review of the case.

Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Lavender and Sir Nigel Davis, said certain offences required a mandatory year on licence, but a suspended sentence and licence cannot last for longer than two years, making John’s sentence “unlawful”.

“The judge had no power to impose a suspended sentence as he did,” he said.

Solicitor General Alex Chalk QC, who presented the AGO’s case to the Court of Appeal, said he was “pleased” to see the judges find the original sentence “unduly lenient”.

“The government is committed to confronting terrorism in all its forms, including from the extreme right wing,” he said.

“We remain focussed on disrupting the activities of the most dangerous extremists, supporting those who stand up to their hateful rhetoric, and protecting vulnerable people being drawn into terrorism.”

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