A neo-Nazi terror offender who was ordered to read Jane Austen has been jailed after judges overturned his “unduly lenient” sentence.
Ben John, now 22, was handed a suspended prison sentence for possessing a terrorist document in August, meaning he would not be jailed unless he broke the conditions of a Serious Crime Prevention Order
At the time, Judge Timothy Spencer QC urged him to swap far-right propaganda for English literature, asking John: “Have you ever read Dickens? Austen? Well, start now. Start with Pride and Prejudice. Shakespeare? Try Twelfth Night. Dickens, start with A Tale of Two Cities and, if you have time, think about Hardy and think about Trollope.”
He sentenced John to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with a one-year extended licence and a five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order.
Court of Appeal judges found that sentence was unlawful and sent John to prison for two years.
He was ordered to hand himself in at a police station by 4pm on Thursday, when he will be taken into custody.
Judges ruled that under the Sentencing Code which binds judges, sentences of more than two years cannot be suspended, and John’s term amounted to three years.
Lord Justice Holroyde did not criticise Judge Spencer’s remarks, and said he had been “in the best possible position to assess the offender”.
“It was certainly a very lenient sentence but we are not persuaded that in the circumstances in this case, the length of the term of imprisonment was itself unduly lenient,” he added.
“It is because the term was unlawful that we conclude it was unduly lenient.”