Ex-student told to read classics after terror conviction ‘enjoyed Shakespeare’

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An ex-student who was told to read classic literature after being convicted of a terrorism offence has told the sentencing judge he “enjoyed Shakespeare more than Jane Austen”.

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.

John was invited by a judge to read famous works including Pride And Prejudice and A Tale of Two Cities as he was given a five-year serious crime prevention order.

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.

“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 21-year-old was 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.

The charge 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.

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.

Judge Spencer told John he acknowledged “publicity of this case” had affected his rehabilitation.

John 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.

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