The Attorney General has asked the Court of Appeal to review the “unduly lenient” sentence handed to an ex-student who was told to read classic novels after being convicted of a terrorism offence.
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.
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.
Police said John, of Lincoln, had also amassed 67,788 documents in bulk downloads onto hard drives, containing “a wealth” of white supremacist 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.
“Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope.
“On January 4 you will tell me what you have read and I will test you on it.”
The decision by Attorney General 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.
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.”
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said: “I can confirm that the Attorney General has referred Ben John’s sentence to the Court of Appeal as she agrees that it appears unduly lenient.
“It is now for the Court to decide whether to increase the sentence.”
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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