January 19, 2022 5.01 pm

Prison after all for white supremacist told by judge to read books, appeal court rules

The Court of Appeal reversed the judge’s decision

A 22-year-old “white supremacist” who avoided jail and was told by a judge to read classic literature instead, has been ordered to serve two years in prison by the Court of Appeal.

Ben John, of Addison Drive in Lincoln, was found guilty of one count of having in his possession a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism in August last year, but was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence at Leicester Crown Court.

Forensic computer investigators found that not only had Ben John become a part of the Extreme Right Wing online, which champions fascism and Neo Nazism, but he had also downloaded a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook, along with a wealth of white supremacist content.

Ben John leaves the hearing. | Photo: BBC Look North

The decision caused uproar, and activist group Hope Not Hate issued an open letter to the Attorney General following the suspended sentence, describing it as “obscenely lenient” and calling for a review.

The Attorney General’s office referred the case to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme as a result of the letter by Hope Not Hate, and the review found John should in fact serve prison time.

He has been ordered to spend two years behind bars with a further year on extended licence, and he was told to hand himself in to police by 4pm on Thursday, January 20.

At a review hearing at Leicester Crown Court, a judge quizzed him on his reading of classic literature as promised, and was said to be “encouraged” by John’s progress, who said he had “enjoyed Shakespeare more than Jane Austen”.

Counter Terrorism Policing East Midlands (CTP EM) Detective Inspector James Manning, led the investigation in partnership with regional and national agencies.

“This was a long and complex investigation and I welcome the court’s decision today to impose a stricter sentence on Ben John, sending a clear message to anyone with similar ideologies that they will be dealt with as strongly as possible,” he said.

“Let us be very clear: Ben John is a convicted Right Wing Extremist who was in possession of a document which in the wrong hands could cause incalculable damage. It is illegal to knowingly possess material that could assist in terrorist-related activities, and he downloaded and stayed in possession of that document for a substantial amount of time.

“This was not light reading. There was no mistake that he made which meant he didn’t know what he was in possession of, or how inflammatory and dangerous it was. Today’s sentence reflects the severity of his actions.”

Assistant Chief Constable at Lincolnshire Police, Kerrin Wilson, added: “The work of the investigative team was key to Ben John’s successful conviction, and I want to thank the tenacity of those challenging the first sentence so that we continue to protect our communities.”