Twenty-year-old Ben John was arrested in January 2020, for violating Britain’s Terrorism Act. He was caught with 70,000 extremist documents on his computer, including material on how to build a bomb.
Much of the extremist material on John’s computer promoted the ideology of white supremacy, Adolph Hitler, Nazis, and fascism. In the United States this material would most likely be protected by the First Amendment. But in Great Britain such documents are illegal, and John faced up to 15 years in prison.
John’s attorney claimed there is no proof he was actually preparing to plan a terrorist attack, and that his client is simply a confused man. Judge Timothy Spencer bought this argument and last month gave John a two-year suspended sentence, plus one year on probation. But in addition, the judge ordered John to do some reading.
From the bench, Judge Spencer declared, “You are a lonely individual with few if any true friends. 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.”
John will have to deliver oral reports on his reading every four months for two years. And on January 4th he’ll have to report to the judge on Pride and Prejudice, and the judge will test him on it. If he fails the test, the judge has promised he will suffer.
One can only wonder what the judge would do. Throw the book at him?