White supremacist ordered to read Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare to avoid jail

WION Web Team
NEW DELHIUpdated: Sep 02, 2021, 10:59 PM IST

A judge with gavel in court (representative Image). Photograph:(Twitter)

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A former student who downloaded almost 70,000 white supremacist documents and bomb-making instructions has avoided a prison sentence “by the skin of his teeth” after being told to read classic literature by Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare and Hardy.

A young Nazi sympathiser who obtained bomb-making instructions has been ordered to read classic classics such as "Pride and Prejudice."

Judge Timothy Spencer QC told 21-year-old Ben John, he could stay out of prison as long as he steered clear of white-supremacy literature and read works and plays by Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.

After evading jail "by the skin of his teeth," the former De Montfort University student will have to come to court every four months to be tested on his reading by the judge. 

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The Leicester Mercury stated that John was recognised as a terror threat days after his 18th birthday and referred to the Prevent programme, yet he continued to download "repellent" rightwing documents.

He also penned a letter in which he railed against gays, immigrants, and leftists.

On August 11, he was found guilty by a jury of possessing information likely to be useful in planning a terrorist attack, a charge that carries a maximum term of 15 years in prison. 

According to the judge, John should have turned away from his "obsessive infatuation" with the extreme right, but instead wrote a letter claiming to be a member of the "Lincoln fascist underground" and expressing contempt for the LGBT community and immigration.

John was pursuing a criminology and psychology degree at the University of Leicester when he was arrested in January 2020.

John was dubbed a "sad fantasist" by the judge, who claimed he had no terrorist objectives and was unlikely to hurt anyone.

At the sentencing hearing, he was freed from detention after being held on remand since August 11 for violating his bail conditions. 

(With inputs from agencies)