Neo-Nazi told to ‘read Jane Austen’ is jailed after Cheltenham MP addresses court

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Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk successfully argued in court that a white supremacist convicted of a terrorism offense should go to jail instead of being free to read classic literature.

Ben John, 22, from Lincolnshire, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and a five-year serious crime prevention order last year after being found guilty of possessing a file that could be useful to someone committing or plotting an act of terrorism after they are found with a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

When he was sentenced last year, Judge Timothy Spencer told John he could stay out of jail as long as he avoided white supremacy literature and read Jane Austen books and plays , William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.

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But this month, Mr Chalk told the Court of Appeal that John failed to do so when he presented the case he had submitted under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme.

As Solicitor General, Mr Chalk told the court that John showed no change in his extremist behavior after the initial conviction.

“We now know that within a week of making a seemingly heartfelt promise to the judge, he resumed his interest in the far right,” he said.

John “was, at the time of these offences, a confirmed extremist” and “there are very good reasons” to believe he might still be, Chalk said. He added: “It is not to be wondered if any part of this ideology is put into practice.”

Mr Chalk John continued to ‘like’ Nazi-themed content online five days after the suspended sentence was handed down.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the original sentence was unlawful and ordered John to serve two years in prison.

He will also spend an additional year on an extended license.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Chalk said: “The government is committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms, including that of the far right.

“We remain focused on disrupting the activities of the most dangerous extremists, supporting those who resist their hateful rhetoric, and protecting vulnerable people drawn into terrorism.

“I referred Ben John’s sentence to the Court of Appeal and chose to present it personally, as I felt it was unduly lenient. I am happy that the Court of Appeal accepted and chose to increase his sentence.

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