A young Nazi sympathizer who downloaded bomb-making instructions avoided immediate jail time by promising to read classic novels like Pride and Prejudice.
21-year-old Ben John was told he could stay out of jail as long as he stayed away from the literature of white supremacy and read books and plays by Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.
The former De Montfort University student has to return to court every four months to be tested for reading by Judge Timothy Spencer QC after escaping prison “by the skin of his teeth,” LeicestershireLive reported.
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John was not identified as a terrorist risk until days after his 18th birthday and was referred to the Prevent program, but continued to download “disgusting” right-wing documents and a manual that gave bomb-making instructions.
He also read about the Nazis and wrote a letter raging against gays, immigrants and liberals.
On August 11th of that year, a jury found him guilty of possessing information that could be useful in preparing an act of terrorism. The court heard that the conviction was sentenced to a maximum imprisonment of 15 years.
But Judge Spencer concluded that his crime was likely “an act of juvenile folly” and an isolated incident.
He told John today as the verdict was announced, “You are a lonely person with few, if any, true friends.”
He added that John was “very susceptible” to being recruited by others who were more susceptible to action, but said, “I don’t think any harm has likely been done.”
He made John promise not to research any further right-wing materials.
The judge asked John, “Will you promise me that?”
John replied, “I promise.”
The judge then asked, “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 of Trollope.
“On January 4th you tell me what you’ve read and I’ll test you on it.
“I’ll test you and when I think it’s you [lying to] i will suffer you
“I’ll watch you every step of the way, Ben John. If you let me down, you know what will happen. “
Then he said to John’s attorney Harry Bentley: “He has avoided imprisonment by a margin.”
John was sentenced to two years suspended prison sentence plus an additional year on license, supervised by the probation department.
He was also given a five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order requiring him to stay in touch with the police and have them monitor his online activities and spend up to 30 days on an identity health program.
Prior to this, prosecutor Ben Lloyd had told the court that John had not responded to warnings in the past.
In January 2018, he was noticed by the authorities for his extreme views and had meetings with Prevent officials aimed at deradicalizing youths at risk of extremism.
But in May 2018, John, who is from Lincoln, wrote a letter to his school claiming to be part of “The Lincoln Fascist Underground,” with a rant against gays and immigrants that led to more intense intervention by Prevent and led psychiatric evaluation.
That didn’t stop him, and in April 2019 he copied more than 9,000 right-wing extremist and terrorist documents onto his computer’s hard drive, and a few months later, in August 2019, another 2,600 were added.
These documents were only discovered in January 2020 after police raided John’s college dorm on Saxby Street, Highfields, Leicester.
They contained seven documents which the judge described as “many, many workable instructions on how to conduct devastating explosions”.
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