White supremacist ordered to read Pride and Prejudice as he avoids jail ‘by skin of teeth’

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Ben John, aged 21, is a young Nazi sympathiser who downloaded bomb-making instructions and was ordered by Judge Timothy Spencer QC to read literary classics instead. The judge told John that he could stay out of prison as long as he steered clear of white supremacy literature.

He advised that the youth should read books and plays by classic writers such as Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens instead.

John, who previously studied at De Montfort University, will be invited back to court every four months to be tested on the literature in question.

The 21-year-old was first identified as a terror risk days after his 18th birthday and had been referred to the Prevent programme.

However, John continued to download “repellant” right-wing documents alongside content about the Nazis.

The youth also acquired a manual that contained bomb-making instructions and wrote a letter raging against gay people, immigrants and liberals.

Earlier this month, John was found guilty by a jury of possessing information likely to be useful for preparing an act of terror.

The court heard the conviction had a maximum jail sentence of 15 years, but Judge Spencer concluded that this was an isolated incident and that his crime was likely to be “an act of teenage folly”.

The judge told the boy’s barrister Harry Bentley: “He has by the skin of his teeth avoided imprisonment.”

Seven incriminating documents that the judge described as being “many, many viable instructions on how to make devastating explosions” were found among other right-wing and terror-related documents on John’s computer hard drive.

John’s student accommodation in Saxby Street, Highfields, Leicester, was raided by police in January 2020 which led to the discovery of what has been described as “a worrying amount of right-wing literature and imagery”.

Judge Spencer said: “It is repellent, this content, to any right-thinking person.

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“This material is largely relating to Nazi, fascist and Adolf Hitler-inspired ideology.

“But there was also a substantial quantity of more contemporary material espousing extreme right-wing, white-supremacist material.

“You suggested at trial it was mere academic fascination – I reject that. My view is that to a significant degree you have aligned with these ideologies and to a significant degree have adopted the views expressed as your own.”

During the sentencing, the judge made the youth promise not to research any more right-wing materials before asking him: “Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

“Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope.”

Judge Spencer ruled that the 21-year-old would return to the court in January to check he had upheld his promise and read the classic texts.

He stated: “On January 4 you will tell me what you have read and I will test you on it.

“I will test you and if I think you are [lying to] me you will suffer.

“I will be watching you, Ben John, every step of the way. If you let me down you know what will happen.”

For his crimes, the supremacist was sentenced to a two-year jail sentence suspended for two years plus a further year on licence, monitored by the probation service.

A five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order was also administered, meaning John must stay in touch with the police and allow them to monitor his online activity.

He must also complete up to 30 days on a Healthy Identity Intervention programme for his crimes.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Spencer commended all the officers who had worked on this case.

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