Equal justice under the law

James Murdoch

Equal justice under the law, that’s what’s engraved on the US Supreme Court Building in Washington. I’m sure it means just as much to Brits as Americans, but it will be tested over the next couple of years.

Yesterday at the High Court in London News International (NI) settled a bunch of civil cases brought by those who have had either their phones or emails hacked by Murdoch’s journalists. Here’s a link to the Independent’s report. Although it will cost NI a pretty penny, when compared to the money that Murdoch’s empire generates especially in TV, it will hardly make a dent.

During the hearings yesterday the NI although not admitting its executives had covered up the extent of the hacking, did agree that the amounts awarded should be based as if that was the case. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but what we are actually talking about is perverting the course of justice. It seems very unlikely that senior executives at NI were not committing crinimal offenses after the original hacking took place. As so often we have two types of crimes linked. First there were journalists, editors, private investigators and such directly involved in the hacking of personal information. This was followed by more senior managers trying to cover up the original crimes.

All equal under the law. A wonderful idea. So a rich or powerful man should be judged to the same standard of someone from a far lower position in society. Let’s come up with a couple of examples.

Do you remember after last summer’s riots how Cameron was encouraging judges and magistrates to give punishments which would act as deterrents for future rioting. Just recently didn’t another of those teenage boys who called for a riot on Facebook, which didn’t happen, get a three year sentence? So will Cameron call for deterrent sentencing of NI executives to show other newspaper managements that what was going on at the News of the World will not be tolerated?

I’m sure some think that I’m being dreadful comparing these figures of high society who are part of the Chipping Norton set with those lowlife working class teenagers. Well no matter. No need to argue. Instead I will compare them with two of their own.

You see one of their senior journalists, Clive Goodman, received a four month stretch at Her Majesty’s pleasure and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator received a six month term. See no need to go looking at teenage hoodlums.

So if the we go along with accepted wisdom that the cover up is worse than the crime we start to get an idea of what sentences would be correct for those found guilty, and by all the comparisons  they must be custodial. It’s hard to see how tariffs of less than a year would be correct. Now if Cameron does tell the judges and magistrates that examples need to made again it would be hard to see anything less than those boys got as being suitable, in other words three years.

All this and we haven’t even mentioned senior officers at the Met receiving money and favours from NI. What should they get? Still not to worry as we are equal under the law. We can see that by the number of bankers who have been arrested.

What? There are none?

  • Anonymous

    It would be wrong to impose exemplary sentences on News Corp executives because, unlike the riots, there is not an immediate need to deter others. In the riots the courts were sentencing those convicted within days of the riots, when riots either were still going on or had only just finished. In the atmosphere of lack of fear of the law harsher than normal sentences were needed to restablish order.

    There is no current epidemic of phone hacking, almost all cases are several years old and the sentences of Mulcaire etc seem to have stopped the practice, if not the cover up. So the normal senyencing seems to have worked.

    I’m not suggesting that those responsible for breaking the law should not be punished, with custodial sentences if required, but you can not equate it to the riots, no matter how much you hate the Murdochs and all they stand for. If the Mirror were found to have hacked and covered it up would you be calling for exemplary sentences? Unless your answer is truly yes I would point out that politically motivated sentencing is even more reprehensible than hacking

    • swatantra

      Thank goodness we have a Judiciary independent of political interference! But it has to be said that the Judiciary sometimes lacks commonsense and nouse and are a bit out of touch with the common people, eg in the interpretation of HRA and awarding damages etc, ad the point about rougue maverick individuals is well made; you get them in any walk of life.
      Why is Bob Crow still in a council house? And why does NI Corps not pay taxes in Britain? These are the more important questions we need answering.

      • Anonymous

        Well Swatantra, sounds like you are joining the coalition who will have Bob Crow paying market rates for his subsidised home. Of course NI Corps, as a US company founded in Australia by an Australian only pays UK taxes on its UK subsidaries. Do you think any other outcome would be fair?

        Since my wife is a judge I have to stand up for them and say that they are interpreting the law. It is the politicians who badly draft them so the outcome is against common sense.

      • Anonymous

        That is what you think are the main questions to ask in the UK, no wonder we are in a mess

        • swatantra

          The allocation of Council Housing, indeed the lack of housing and affordable housing is one of the fundamental issues affecting Britain tiday and drving the working class into the hands of facist parties. Councils should and will have the power to build , not just affordable housing but private sector housing and planned housing with mixed tenure estates
          The raising of revenue is also another fundamental question. Tax avoidance and evasion is rife amongst the wealthy; contrasted against the benefit cheats it bears. There is no f iscal responsibility. Bth Tory and Labour Govts have failed to tackle those issues of Tax and Housing and that is why we are in a mess. 

    • LesAbbey

      Almost plausible except one of the Facebook boys got his three years just about a month ago. If there was any excuse it would be to calm down the kids for next summer. If that’s the case then the same could be said of future phone hacking.

      A much more likely explanation will be that it’s who you are and know that controls the sentencing.

      Noticeable that no bankers were ever charged over the financial meltdown. It seems to me that ignorance or stupidity is not a defense as many charged will dangerous driving would know, yet wiping 7% off the GDP attracts no police attention. (The 7% is the number I think I heard on Friday’s Daily Politics, but please correct me if I’m wrong.)

      Oh, and if it were the Mirror? Yes I think I would. I’m not that fond of the paper or Maguire with his professional Geordie act. Then again I do hold a special contempt for Murdoch which was only matched by Maxwell.

      I see below you talk about tax on News International in Britain. I may be wrong but I don’t think they pay corporate tax on their British operations because they claim double-tax exemption being based in the US. Then again neither does the Guardian I hear.

      • Anonymous

        The Facebook boys got their sentence upheld by the Court of Appeal, a couple of months ago, not convicted. That was at the time of the riots. Big difference.

        Secondly, what actual laws did the bankers break? If you want to lock people up for incompetence then first you have to make it illegal and even then you can only lock those up who do it AFTER you pass the law, unless you aspire to be Stalin and I don’t think you do. If we were to lock up nasty capitalists just because we don’t like them, then if the pendulum swung they could lock you up for being a nasty socialist.

        You understand what double taxation rules are, so companies don’t pay tax twice on the same thing. That seems fair unless you want to go back to a closed national economy which would wipe a large multiple of 7% off the UK GDP (In which case following your earlier logic it would be off to prison with you)

        • LesAbbey

          Re. Facebook – That’s just not true DevonChap. One 22 year old from Kidderminster was sentenced to 30 months on the 14th. December and two Dundee teens got three years each on the 12th. December.

          Re. Bankers – Seems to me criminal damage would be a good place to start. With driving offenses we accept ‘incompetence’ does not pardon the crime so why should we with the likes of greedy bankers?

          Re. Double taxation – That was in answer to your statement below on News International paying tax on its UK subsidiaries.

          Seems you are, as they say, batting zero for three on that comment DevonChap, and with a wife who’s a judge as you say. Hope her score is better than yours.

          • LesAbbey

            Re. Double taxation – That was in answer to your statement below on News International paying tax on its UK subsidiaries.

            That should have read UK taxes on its… as in your original comment.

          • DevonChap

            Les, your self regarding responses are rather tiresome.

            I hadn’t heard of those conviction you referred to, now I have looked into them and the Dundee case was actually more serious than the Cheshire case as the Scots pair were advocating murder and the use of guns. Even so they only got 3 years as opposed to 4. Thus proving my point that conviction at the time were harsher. I find it helps to understand things before sounding off. So looks what you thought was a goal was disallowed, shame.

            As to bankers, running a bank into the ground is not an offence, whilst dangerous driving is. Incompetence is no defence if you break a law, but if you don’t break a law there is no case (and aside from a wild stab you don’t suggest how the bankers have broken the law or any cases that could provide precedent). It is against natural justice just to make up or stretch laws to go after people you don’t like when their activities, whilst you may not like them, were perfectly legal. So another one of your ‘goal’ that bounced off the cross bar for lack of understanding.

            On to NI’s UK tax, I don’t know the exact amount but they do lose a lot of money on their UK newspapers which is offset against other profits. This is a normal and accepted business practice.  That and double taxation on activities across boarders may well account for their low tax liabilities. That makes three points which smugly saying “I’m right and you’re wrong’ turned out to be a mistake.

            You are not some great oracle. Don’t hold yourself out as one. 

          • LesAbbey

            Seems to me DevonChap that again you make statements and when you are caught out being wrong you will not admit it. I’m sorry you are obviously upset about being found out but you should have learned last time we did this. Do you remember?

            As for myself as a great oracle, maybe I can grow into it. That really would be something to put into my CV.

          • LesAbbey

            Just to finish off this silly thread. I will work from a base that you were ignorant of the most recent Facebook riot convictions and that you will not acknowledge the possibility that News International doesn’t pay UK tax on its UK operations as you claimed. (I’m not even sure this is so and can’t really be bothered looking it up, but at least I admitted I wasn’t sure unlike your good self.)

            So that just leaves whether bankers should be jailed. It was pleasant to see a Daily Telegraph columnist no less, Allison Pearson, writing yesterday – “What we need now is a banker behind bars”. Even without this unexpected support I’m sure you could ask your good lady wife and judge about retroactive laws. Just to help you on your way I will paste from that real oracle of knowledge, Wikipedia.

            In the United Kingdom, ex post facto laws are frowned upon, but are permitted by virtue of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Historically, all acts of Parliament before 1793 were ex post facto legislation, inasmuch as their date of effect was the first day of the session in which they were passed. This situation was rectified by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1793.

            Some laws are still passed retrospectively, in 1990 the Pakistan Act (which readmitted Pakistan to the Commonwealth) was one such law, despite being passed on 29 June 1990, section 2 subsection 3 states that “This Act shall be deemed to have come into force on 1st October 1989″, nine months before it was enacted.

            Retrospective criminal laws are prohibited by Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory, but several noted legal authorities have stated their opinion that parliamentary sovereignty takes priority even over this. For example, the War Crimes Act 1991 created an ex post facto jurisdiction of British courts over war crimes committed during the Second World War.

            Taxation law has on multiple occasions been changed to retrospectively disallow tax avoidance schemes.

          • Anonymous

            Sorry Les,  you are the one making unsupported statements. You want to ride rough shod over civil liberties (which I accept Parliament can do, but generally doesn’t since we rather value our freedom) in order to hurt people you don’t like. Calling a reactionary DT columist as support just confirms you are the saloon bar bore we all took you for. Typical Socialist, you don’t have to scratch much below the surface to let the totalitarian out. I previously said I didn’t think you wanted to be Stalin, now I think you would love to be  him.

            You say I am wrong but I didn’t say we couldn’t jail bankers, just it would be against natural justice to do so. And nothing you quote refutes that.

            I am cross because you seem to think that a bit of assertion wins your case. It does not, no matter what you say. That I don’t keep up with regional news doesn’t answer why NI exectuives shoud be given exemplary punishment if convicted, which is what we were discussing before you wondered off the point. I guess at your age its hard to keep track.

            I never claimed to know the ins and outs of NI’s tax, mearly replies to someone statement they don’t pay tax and was clear that I was using logic to suggest possible reasons. Again reading and understanding comments is a good idea unless you ejoy appearing the priggish twit you do at present.

            You are a great something, not an oracle though.

          • LesAbbey

            Well DC I guess  we will never agree. I may be a Typical Socialist but I am that on a Labour blog and I do try not to be rude or personal. You seem to troll the Labour blogs pushing a conservative viewpoint and never giving an inch. You know all in all and as you say being very old, I think I will demote you to DevonGirl again. Happy trolling, but maybe back over at Labourlist. Just a suggestion.

          • Anonymous

            Trolling is putting comments on to prevoke a reaction, whilst I’m just trying to debate the issues. If you don’t hear opposing viewpoints then you’ll never advance you ideas. You may want an echo chamber to tell you who wonderful LesAbbey is but its a poor person who wants their ego stroked by the handful of people who frequent here.

            Now I get cross if instead of someone answering my points they get all patronising. Patronising people is rude don’t you know so don’t get all holier than thou. The assumption is undeserved moral airs and graces is unattractive. It isn’t my fault you can’t justify your position or answer a point except by changing the subject.

            You want to inprision bankers. You can’t say who and you can’t say why except in a general sense and you’d trample on our civil liberties to do it. Anger is not enough. You are angry with the bankers, I blame Labour, can I inprison them?

            Truly you aren’t a Man for All Seasons

            William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
            Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
            William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
            Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  • swatantra

    You can’t jail Bankers but you can take away their knighthoods!
    How trivial! How meaningless. What a waste of time!
    I’d prefer them jailed, as an example to others. Nobody is above the Law andthink they can get away with fleecing others, even shareholders. 
    And Les is right about retrospective legislation; we’ve done it on Double Jeopardy’ and nailed  of Stephen Lawrences killers. Just because an original Law or Regulation was flawed or badly drafted doesn’t mean villans can sleep easily in their beds. We’ll get them in the end.
    Thats what  I think Natural Justice should mean; and thats what is so problematic with current HRs Law. 

  • Swatantra

    So NI is dishing out huge payments to some celebs and disgraced politicians for having their phones tapped! Of course we should not condone criminal acts; but neither should we condone the goings on of some of those named. They desrve their just deserts.