Thursday, 10 February 2011

Why there are criminals more worthy of our sympathy than Jim Devine

Am watching Politics Now and just heard commentator Lorraine Davidson say that Jim Devine (ex Labour MP just found guilty of fraudulently claiming expenses at Westminster) shouldn't go to jail. The argument seems to be that he cuts a sad figure these days. How many folk who get found out and are facing jail don't cut sad figures? It's a sad thing, not something many folk would choose.

She also said his defence was reminiscent of playground excuses and paraphrased him: "a big boy did it and ran away". That makes it sound quite harmless but am I not right in thinking that it wasn't a "big boy" he tried to put the blame onto but his secretary? Someone he had a duty to as her employer and he told the court it was her when it was quite clearly NOT her? The only similarity to the playground here is the big bully scenario.

I'm sorry that he's come to this. But we cannot feel sorrier for someone who ends up where he is after a very successful professional life than we do for someone who commits crime after a life of poverty and hardship?

How about we save our tears and soothing words for the women who end up in jail through non payment of fines because they are already living in dire poverty? Or those mothers who our judicial system sees fit to imprison when they can't do their community service because they have nobody to look after their children? That is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

As I said I am sorry for Jim Devine but no more so than I am for anyone whose life goes wrong like this.

And I'm far more sorry for the men and women who start out with nothing, have no expectation of anything more than they started out with and who are absolutely right about that because they ultimately end up with precisely nothing.

He might be sitting in a jail cell one day contemplating how tough it is to fall from such a great height but at least he had the opportunity to climb up there. At least he got to see the view from the top. Many folk can't seem to get on the first rung no matter how hard they try. For so many living in poverty life is one step forward, two steps back. He can sit in his cell dreaming about better days and eventually he'll look forward to better days on his release.

The people I'm talking about will be in their cells worrying about their children, resolving never to resort to crime again and resigning themselves to learning to manage on their benefits or minimum wage jobs if they're "lucky" enough to get one now that they have a criminal record. That's who we should be talking about. These are the prisoners we should be worrying about. Not someone who had so many privileges but fuelled by greed, wanted more and when he got caught breaking the law, tried to blame his secretary who was no doubt loyal to him and probably worked her socks off.

I hope he learns from this but I hope we all learn too that jail MAY be harder (may not be but it may) for someone who's used to a nice lifestyle. But LIFE is not harder for them. It IS far far harder for the people I've been talking about and they still have to cope with it when the prison term is over.

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