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A Literary Punishment

by | Sep 1, 2021 | News

For book lovers reading is a joy, so its hard to fathom how it can be passed as a punishment for wrongdoings, but that’s exactly what has been handed out by a UK court.

A young Nazi sympathizer who downloaded bomb-making instructions has been sentenced to read classic novels including Pride and Prejudice instead.

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

The former De Montfort University student will have to return to court every four months to be tested on his reading by the judge after avoiding jail “by the skin of his teeth”.

John had first been identified as a terror risk days after his 18th birthday and was referred to the Prevent programme but carried on downloading “repellant” right-wing documents as well as a manual that contained bomb-making instructions.

He also read about the Nazis and wrote a letter raging against immigrants and liberals.

On August 11 this year, he was found guilty by a jury of possessing information likely to be useful for preparing an act of terror. The court heard the conviction had a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.

The judge had 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 January 4 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.

“I will be watching you, Ben John, every step of the way. If you let me down you know what will happen.”

In January 2018 he had come to the attention of the authorities for his extreme views and had meetings with Prevent officers, which aims to de-radicalise young people at risk of extremism.

De Montfort University confirmed John was a criminology student when he was arrested but had been suspended with immediate effect on his arrest.

 

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