Attorney General urged to review 'unduly lenient' sentence of Neo-Nazi

Attorney General is urged to review ‘unduly lenient’ sentence of Neo-Nazi student who was ordered to read Pride and Prejudice after being found guilty of terror offence

  • Ben John, 21, was found with 67,788 white supremacist and neo-Nazi documents
  • Judge Timothy Spencer QC told John to read classic novels so he could test him
  • He was handed a suspended prison sentence which critics argue was too lenient 

The Attorney General’s Office has been asked to review whether an unduly lenient sentence was handed to an ex-student who was told to read classic novels and given a suspended prison term for a terrorism offence.

Ben John, who police described as a white supremist with a neo-Nazi ideology, was given a two-year suspended sentence at Leicester Crown Court on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old was found guilty by a jury on August 12 of possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Judge Timothy Spencer QC told Ben John, 21, (pictured at court) he could stay out of prison as long as he steered clear of white-supremacy literature and and read classic literature such as Dickens and Austen which some have argued sends the wrong message and is unduly lenient

John (pictured) had 67,788 documents in bulk downloads, which contained white supremist and anti-Semitic material and police also found material related to a Satanist organisation

The offence 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.

Police said John, of Lincoln, had also amassed 67,788 documents in bulk downloads on to hard drives, containing ‘a wealth’ of white supremist and anti-Semitic material.

According to media reports, John was invited by a judge to read famous works including Pride And Prejudice as he was given a five-year serious crime prevention order and told he must return to court in January.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Timothy Spencer QC is reported to have asked John: ‘Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride And Prejudice and Dickens’s A Tale Of Two Cities. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Critics say the sentence, passed by a judge at Leicester Crown Court (pictured) sends the message that violent right-wing extremists may be treated leniently by the courts

Unduly lenient sentences: Anyone can ask Attorney General to look at a case again

The Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme provides for the public to ask the Attorney General to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal for being too low.

The Attorney General’s Office can review very low sentences given by the Crown Court in England and Wales, if asked to do so.

Only sentences for specific offences can be reviewed, including murder, manslaughter and rape. 

To meet the criteria to be judged as ‘unduly lenient’, the law states that the given sentence must ‘fall outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying his mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably consider appropriate.’

Anyone can request for a sentence to be reviewed – even if they are not directly involved in the case.

If the Attorney General decides to send the case to the Court of Appeal, they will then decide whether to leave the sentence as it is, find it to be unduly lenient and increase it or refuse to hear the appeal.

‘Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope.

‘On January 4 you will tell me what you have read and I will test you on it.’

It is not known how many requests to review the sentence have been received by the Attorney General’s Office but anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate has sent an open letter asking for a review of the case.

The letter, written by Hope Not Hate’s chief executive Nick Lowles, stated: ‘A suspended sentence and a suggested reading list of English classics for a terror conviction is unduly lenient for a crime of this nature.

‘This sentence is sending a message that violent right-wing extremists may be treated leniently by the courts.

‘That is a dangerous message to send when the far-right poses the fastest growing terror threat today.

‘These sorts of lenient sentences risk encouraging other young people to access and share terrorist and extremist content because they will not fear the repercussions of their actions.’

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said: ‘We have received a request for the sentence of Ben John to be considered under the unduly lenient sentence (ULS) scheme.

‘The law officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case and make a decision.’

The unduly lenient sentence scheme covers a variety of serious offences including certain types of hate crime and some terror-related offences.

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