Usually, when terrorists are caught, they are sentenced to long periods in prison with the aim of punishing them for their crimes.
A judge, however, decided on a different sentence for a particular terrorist. A neo-Nazi, Ben John, former Leicester De Monfort student, was found guilty of possessing information likely to be useful for preparing an act of terror.
The court heard that the conviction had a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.
John was identified as a terror risk after he turned 18 and was referred to the Prevent programme, which seeks to stop people from becoming radicalised.
But the teenager carried on downloading far-right documents, as well as a manual that contained bomb-making instructions. He also penned a letter raging against gay people, immigrants, and liberals.
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The judge, Timothy Spencer QC, said that this was nothing more than “teenage folly”. And, instead, he is being sentenced to read. Yes, to read. The judge recommended classic authors such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Dickens.
I do understand the reasoning behind this. John had been reading material by white supremacists. The ruling is probably hoping that reading works by more liberal, classic authors may dispel stereotypes he has of the groups he’d been radicalised to hate.
However, reading old books (books I do personally love) written by white people, mainly about white people, may not actually be all that helpful. Some of these works contain the early ideas that developed into the negative stereotypes of women, LGBTQ people, and ethnic minorities many white supremacists believe today.
And I think they should keep him away from Othello, as it may just give him ideas.
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Moreover, some have pointed out a double-standard in this case. One Twitter user quipped: “So if Shamima [Begum] reads Of Mice and Men, she can come back?”
Begum was a 15-year-old groomed by a terror group and hasn’t actually been charged with a crime. Her British citizenship was revoked and she now finds herself stateless.
Whereas the case of Ben John is one of an actual adult who, for his 18th birthday, decided to write his own miniature, Mein Kampf.
You know, relatable stuff. You turn 18, get your first drink, write your own hateful manifesto, and try to learn how to make a bomb.
We all know that if this was a brown man of the same age, looking up bomb instructions and extreme Islamist material online, he may not have been given the same sentence. He would’ve been given an actual prison sentence.
The message is clear: white people are infantilised for as long as possible, whereas brown and black teens are responsible for every action they take, even as children.
This, unfortunately, follows a pattern of right-wing terror offences, which are more of a danger to the population and are not taken seriously enough.
These types of lenient sentences don’t deter young white people from looking at this type of dangerous material. It merely encourages budding white supremacists into unashamedly looking at it, knowing that they will get away with a slap on the wrist.
And at the same time, they can continue promoting said material and views, eventually committing acts of violence.
Authorities and the legal system need to realise that right-wing terrorism is a serious problem in this country. Ever since the 1999 nail bombings in London, right-wing terrorism has grown.
Jo Cox MP was murdered by a white supremacist and still, this isn’t taken as serious a threat as other terror activities.
Shakespeare won’t stop white supremacy. Actual punishments will.