A young man from Lincoln, UK has been told by a judge to read Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to avoid prison.
Ben John, a former De Montford University student, downloaded almost 70,000 white supremacist documents and bomb-making instructions but avoided a prison sentence “by the skin of his teeth” according to Judge Timothy Spencer QC.
He has to return to court every four months to be tested by the judge who sentenced him to a suspended two years’ imprisonment plus a further two years on licence.
Despite being referred to the Prevent programme after being identified as a terror risk, John continued to download “repellent” rightwing documents, as reported by the Leicester Mercury, and was discovered to have written a letter raging against immigrants, gay people, and liberals.
His sentencing took place at Leicester crown court, where the judge believed the crime was likely to be “an act of teenage folly”.
He told John: “You are a lonely individual with few if any true friends,” but John was “not of the view that harm was likely to have been caused”.
The judge made John promise not to research any more extremist materials and asked 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.
“On 4 January 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.”
Concerning the huge amounts of terror-related and violent documents John had researched, the judge said “It is repellent, this content, to any right-thinking person. 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 rightwing, white-supremacist material”
The man’s defence explained that he was “by no means a lost cause” and that he “is capable of living a normal, pro-social life.”
The sentencing has been considered as controversial by many who have suggested that if the young man was Muslim, or anything other than a middle-class white man, the sentencing may have been far worse. The maximum sentence for his crime is 15 years, so being told to read some classic novels is unusual to say the least.
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