Chris Blackhurst: If you can stomach fraud, get set for horrid tunaComments Off on Chris Blackhurst: If you can stomach fraud, get set for horrid tuna
“OMG. I ordered a tuna baguette, but this unpleasant white cotton-wool bread and fishy slush is horrid. I would give anything for some wholemeal bread.”
MacShane was jailed for six months in December last year for fiddling his expenses while an MP. He served his time in Belmarsh, then Brixton. He’s now campaigning for white-collar criminals to avoid imprisonment.
For such people, he says, jail achieves nothing, turns them into hardened criminals or sends some over the edge. And it costs a fortune. I interviewed him this week for London Live, the Evening Standard’s sister TV channel (londonlive.co.uk). MacShane claimed it’s “preposterous” that taxpayers had to spend £1000 a week to lock him up.
Our prisons are already overcrowded, he argues, and many of them are old and no longer fit for purpose. We spend more on prisons than we do on the Foreign Office — £3 billion more to be precise. And we will soon have more prisoners than we do soldiers in the reduced Army.
So, says MacShane we need to look at other punishments for frauds, such as fines and electronic tagging. I can’t agree. I admit to not seeing the sense in locking up MacShane in maximum security Belmarsh — a less secure prison would have sufficed.
But fraud costs the British economy more than £85 billion per year and instances of financial crime are increasing at the rate of 27% a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Imposing fines on those who can easily afford to pay them is ludicrous — witness the financial penalties handed down in the City by watchdogs and the negligible impact they’ve had. Tagging is not much of a punishment, either. Community service might do the trick. But more of a deterrent, surely, is the prospect of jail.
We need to crack down on white-collar crime. And we have to get an important message across: that those who commit fraud are no different from other thieves, and deserve no leniency.
Noam Chomsky put it well when he said: “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” We cannot have one rule for them, and another for the majority. Disgusting tuna baguette it is.