Neo-Nazi extremist and convicted terrorist Ben John, 22, received an immediate custodial sentence after the Court of Appeal quashed the original suspended prison sentence – which included John reading literary classics from white authors like William Shakespeare and Jane Austen.
Right wing extremist Ben John (22), who was given a two year suspended jail sentence in August last year, will now serve his term in prison after the case was referred to the Court of Appeal. https://t.co/uYCHoIl4bm pic.twitter.com/GL7GMdM7Ba
— Lincolnshire Police (@LincsPolice) January 20, 2022
Lord Justice Holroyde ruled the original conviction was unlawful – as per the Sentencing Code, a prison sentence above two years is above the threshold for a suspended sentence – as John’s original sentence stood at three years.
The Sentencing Code came into effect on December 1, 2020, in England and Wales and consolidated existing sentencing procedural laws into a singular Sentencing Act. When dealing with adults above the age of 21, section 277 of the Act clarifies that a suspended sentence does not exceed two years or various aggregate sentences go above the two-year threshold.
John will be one extended licence for one year after leaving prison.
Lord Justice Holroyde said: “We are satisfied that there must be a sentence of immediate imprisonment.”
The Solicitor General Alex Chalk QC MP personally presented the case at the Court of Appeal, who referred to the case to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme. Tell MAMA was one of the various organisations that raised concerns about the lenient nature of the original sentencing. Assistant Chief Constable at Lincolnshire Police, Kerrin Wilson, thanked the “tenacity” of those “challenging the first sentence so that we continue to protect our communities.”
John, who appeared via video link, had to surrender to Lincolnshire Police by 4 pm yesterday (January 20).
The terrorism offence he was jailed for concerned possessing the Anarchist’s Cookbook – an act of terrorism under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act.
Lincolnshire Police uncovered various white supremacist and neo-Nazi materials at their home address – including a video of Adolf Hitler, white supremacist hate music, and a poster of the proscribed terror group National Action.
The 2020 trial revealed that John possessed 67,788 documents on various hard drives, including racist materials about Jewish people broader white supremacist materials.
Last year, Judge Timothy Spencer QC told John: “Have you read Dickens? Austen? Start with Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’s A Tale Of Two Cities. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Think about Hardy. Think about Trollope.”
The judge’s challenge was to engage with the above texts as a condition of avoiding prison, but did he? Harry Shukman of Scout tracked John down a month before his return to court, where he admitted to the journalist that he had read none of the books, despite now owning copies.
At the review hearing in early January, Ben John stated: “I enjoyed Shakespeare more than I did Jane Austen, but I still enjoyed Jane Austen by a degree,” with the judge at Leicester Crown Court described being “encouraged about what you have written out for me.”
However, at the High Court, Alex Chalk QC MP detailed that John had positively engaged with neo-Nazi materials within days of avoiding prison last year.
In a press release published on the GOV.uk website, the Solicitor General Alex Chalk QC MP said: The Government is committed to confronting terrorism in all its forms, including from the Extreme Right Wing. We remain focussed on disrupting the activities of the most dangerous extremists, supporting those who stand up to their hateful rhetoric, and protecting vulnerable people being drawn into terrorism.
I referred Ben John’s sentence to the Court of Appeal, and chose to personally present it, because I believed it to be unduly lenient. I am pleased that the Court of Appeal agreed and chose to increase his sentence today.”
Detective Inspector James Manning, of the Counter-Terrorism Policing East Midlands (CTP EM), who led the investigation in partnership with regional and national agencies, said: “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,” adding, “Ben John is a convicted Right Wing Extremist who was in possession of a document which in the wrong hands could cause incalculable damage.”
The Court of Appeal judges took just over two hours to quash the original verdict and impose the prison sentence.