MANY times over the past three decades I’ve sat in a courtroom and despaired at the warped bias at the heart of our justice system.

I’ve covered cases where ­professionals have escaped with lenient sentences because the judge bought into the almost masonic view that they were One Of Us: “Respectable, hard-working middle-class” people who had lapsed due to personal ­problems.

Decent folk who didn’t deserve the indignity of being locked up with society’s riff-raff, because perjury, fraud, tax evasion or perverting the course of justice was a white-collar crime.

And thus, by definition, a better class of felony than the type committed by the lower orders.

It seemed accepted wisdom that the humiliating loss of reputation by a professional being dragged to court was a severe enough punishment.

I once heard a barrister argue that a company director who had been charged with cooking the books had to resign from his golf club, which was sufficient hardship in itself.

And the judge agreed.

The implication being that working-class criminals have no reputation to uphold and their jobs are so worthless that losing them is irrelevant.

So, even if they pose no threat to society, they should be locked up to send out a message to those at the bottom that crime doesn’t pay.

In Southwark crown court on Monday, I heard Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce’s barristers tell how their clients’ distinguished careers were now in tatters, their reputations shredded, and the stress they’ve been subjected to was punishment enough for a pair of decent people who’d foolishly erred.

Staring into the dock I felt no sympathy for the calculating, arrogant liar that is Huhne.

But I did for the frail and pathetic-looking Pryce.

I’d fallen for the line about the exploited wife consumed with grief, and believed Justice Sweeney would too.

But when he forensically took apart her deceitful performance and jailed her for eight months it felt like a good day for justice.

Pryce was proven to have seriously lied four times. She wasn’t forced to do anything.

Indeed she willingly took those driving points because she knew if her husband was banned she’d have to do all the running round for the family which would affect her career.

She was convinced that by making Huhne’s crime public he would be destroyed but she would escape and she played two newspapers off against each other in trying to achieve that goal.

When that fell through she came up with the defence of marital coercion, claiming she was bullied into submitting to his will, thus dangerously belittling all women who genuinely live in fear of men.

As the judge pointed out, Huhne’s guilt was somewhat, but not greatly, worse than Pryce’s.

They both broke the law, betrayed trust, inflicted damage on their family and abused the public purse to pursue a false innocence.

Which is why he was right to ignore the pressure from his peers to treat these high-standing figures differently from the rabble, and send them down as he would any working-class couple who had led authority the same merry dance.

I’m quick to slag off Establishment figures for looking after their own.

But I’d like to thank this judge for restoring a small piece of my faith in British justice.


First Falklands – now North Ireland?

A few observations on that Falklands referendum.

Surely the fact that 92% of them bothered to get off their couches and vote proves they’re not British at all.

With 98.8% of them thinking the same way, how can any of them get annoyed when we call their home an island full of sheep?

And now that we’ve allowed the sheep on the Falklands to stick two fingers up to Argentina, will we give the penguins on South Georgia the same opportunity?

Or if we’re only asking people in disputed overseas territories if they want to remain British, when will the ­nationalist communities of Belfast, Derry and Newry get a chance to decide?

It’s a shame about Ray

Certain people have rallied to Ray Winstone’s defence after he threatened to emigrate due to being “raped” by the taxman.

“I love this country but I’ve had enough of it. I don’t see what we’re being given back,” he said.

Supporters claim he wasn’t moaning about paying too much tax, just that he’d like to see it spent on better roads and hospitals.

Well sorry, guv, but you’ve got previous.

Five years ago he threatened to move because workers like him were simply ­subsidising welfare claimants: “You sit on your backside, laze about and claim ­benefits or you work your b******s off and pay most of what you earn in tax.”

In other words, there are too many scumbags and not enough people paying taxes, says the man who made a mint playing scumbags and was bankrupt for not paying his taxes.

A Cockney Jack The Lad made good who wants to keep it all, viewing those he left behind, who didn’t get his breaks, as leeches.

Diamond geezer? Nah, just another whining rich man who wants to pay the lowest tax for the highest quality of life.

Well off you pop to Russia, my son, with that other tax-avoiding slaaa-ag Gerard Depardieu.

And don’t let the door slam on the wallet in your arris pocket on the way out.

Blue joke

However depressing your life seems, consider this: In hundreds of workplaces people are currently being asked what they’ve got planned for the weekend and answering: “Going to the Tory spring conference.”

So remember that however bad your lot appears, nothing you say today could possibly draw more laughter from colleagues, followed by a pitiful look, a backing away and a call to either the company nurse or security.

This treadmill idea’s got legs

I FEAR Iain Duncan Smith may go for this political think-tank idea of paying the unemployed to go to health clubs.

Not because it will lower the burden on the NHS but because he’ll be able to build gyms with only treadmills, and force the jobless to work them 24 hours a day, feeding energy into the National Grid.

It’s bringing back the workhouse by the back door.

Happier with Hitler

A SURVEY of Austrians shows that 42% of them believe life under Adolf Hitler was better than it is today.

Which means that the country is still riddled with fascists or there’s a lot more Josef Fritzls than we thought.

Five big questions of the week

1 Is Justin Bieber the greatest advert for being allowed to smack children?

2 Will Prince Charles put his 427 spare rooms in his pensioner mother’s name to avoid the bedroom tax?

3 Are Cheltenham bookies offering odds on which frozen food aisle the fallers in tomorrow’s Gold Cup will end up in?

4 Now the cardinals have finally elected a new pope are they cracking open the communion wine and painting the Sistine Chapel red?

5 Why is anyone shocked that a Queen would support a gay rights charter?

Jailing of white-collar criminals Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce restored my faith in … –
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