Ben John, an English student, was guilty of downloading 70,000 white supremacist documents and bomb-making instructions. The police described the 21-year-old as a white supremacist with a Neo-Nazi ideology.
Instead of 15 years of imprisonment under section 58 of the Terrorism Act, he was asked to read literature.
The attorney general Timothy Spencer, who ordered John to read classic literature, reportedly said, “Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Think about Hardy and Trollope”. The former made him promise to stop his research on far-right-wing material. He will now “test” him every four months on classic literature.
John, in 2018, wrote a tirade titled ‘Eternal Front’ against the LGBTQ+ community and immigrants and had claimed to be part of the Lincolnshire Fascist Underground. Followed by this, he had a psychiatric evaluation an intensive intervention by Prevent – UK’s counter-terrorism organisation.
In 2019, he possessed more than 11,000 copies of terror-related documents on his computer. Despite all this, the judge called John’s crime an isolated “act of teenage folly”.
A spokesperson for the attorney general addressed the issue by claiming they had received a request for John’s sentence to be considered under the unduly lenient sentence (ULS) scheme – The law officers will have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case and make a decision.
UK anti-fascist group ‘Hope Not Hate,’ slammed the sentence as lenient, inconsequential while stating this sentence had failed to consider the threat of far-right terrorism as a serious offense. In an open letter, the CEO, Nick Lowles, said, “These sorts of lenient sentences risk encouraging other young people to access, share terrorist and extremist content because they will not fear the repercussions of their actions.”