Terrorism convict ordered to read classics is jailed after sentence overturned

A judge’s decision to order a white supremacist to read classic literature as part of a suspended sentence has been quashed by the court of appeal after a successful challenge by the government.

Ben John, 22, gave no external reaction as Lord Justice Holroyde found the initial sentence to be unlawful and ordered him to jail.

Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Lavender and Sir Nigel Davis, 说: “We are satisfied that there must be a sentence of immediate imprisonment.”

The senior judges found that while the original length of the sentence was “very lenient”, it was not unduly so, and the sentence was only quashed because of a legal issue involving minimum tariffs for a suspended sentence and licence.

Addressing John after giving their decision, Holroyde said: “You will have to serve at least two-thirds of the two-year period.”

The tougher punishment follows a government challenge to the leniency of the initial sentence, presented in person at the court by the solicitor general, Alex Chalk.

John, whom police described as a white supremacist with neo-Nazi ideology, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence at Leicester crown court last August.

He was found guilty of possessing a record likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism after he was found with a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

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

Chalk told the court of appeal that John had shown no change in his extremist behaviour after the initial sentence.

“We now know that within a week of giving an apparently sincere promise to the judge, he resumed his interest in the far right,” Chalk told the court.

John “was, at the time of these offences, a confirmed extremist” and “there are very good reasons” to think he may still be, Chalk said. 他加了: “It does not bear thinking about if some of this ideology is put into practice.”

At John’s trial last year, Judge Timothy Spencer gave him a suspended prison sentence after he promised to stop his interest in far-right ideologies.

Chalk said: “As the court knows, he did not comply with that promise.” He said John continued to “like” Nazi-themed content online five days after the suspended sentence was passed.

As part of the original sentence, Spencer said John would be tested on what he had read. 他说: “When you come to see me every four months I will test you. And if I think you are bullshitting, you will suffer.”

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

Chalk argued that while the sentence was intended to allow for “potent control” over John’s rehabilitation, this idea in the circumstances was “manifestly false”.

Chalk concluded: “Overall, the sentence was too short and should not have been susceptible to be suspended.”

Tom Little QC, for the solicitor general, argued that the sentence was wrong in law because it included the maximum suspended sentence of two years, plus an additional year on licence.

Richard Wormald QC, for John, told the court: “This is a youth who became fascinated by extreme rightwing material,” adding that he was described as “childish in presentation, even at 22”.

The court heard that during a short time in prison before he was sentenced, John had “recognised the privilege of the outside world” and “abandoned” the far right.

Speaking after the hearing, 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.”

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