A British neo-Nazi found guilty of terrorist offenses and ordered to read a list of classical novels, including Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, has revealed that he has not yet started reading them, Scout News, a newsletter investigating the far-Right in the UK, revealed over the weekend.
Ben John, a 21-year-old Nazi sympathizer, was found with 67,788 instances of violent white supremacist content, including instructions to make bombs, and was told by Judge Timothy Spencer QC in late summer that he could stay out of prison if he avoided white-supremacy materials and read classic literature.
Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens were recommended as the judge told John he had avoided jail "by the skin of his teeth."
Despite the conviction carrying a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, Judge Spencer concluded the crime was likely "an act of teenage folly" and an isolated incident.
However, as part of this sentencing, John would be tested on the material every four months, with the first test being on January 4, 2022.
“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,” the judge warned at the sentencing.
Despite this unusually light sentence and the deadline for the test fast approaching, John confirmed to Scout News that he hadn't even started any of the books.
“I don’t know how to put it,” he told the news outlet. “I’ve got them. I’ve not got to grips with any of them.”
John couldn't even remember some of the books he bought for this and said they were "buried somewhere" in his home, though he did reveal he read Pride and Prejudice in school when he was younger, according to Scout.
However, he told Scout that he still had a month until his test.
John's sentencing was criticized by several advocacy groups as being too lenient and inadequate.
“Ben John left court with a mere suspended sentence and some English homework,” a spokesperson for the UK watchdog NGO Campaign Against Antisemitism said, according to Scout.
“Given his extraordinary luck, it would be astonishing if Mr. John does not even do the reading assigned to him, which would serve only to prove the critics of this incredible sentence right.”