Owen Jones wants us all to know that the British justice system is horrendously biased. The rich get away with it while the poor are oppressed. One part of his evidence being that no one’s gone to jail for causing the Crash. The problem with this as a piece of evidence is the manner in which we – no doubt in some horrendously neoliberal fashion – insist upon conviction for an actual crime before jailing someone.
While the justice system is a stick for the poor, it offers an abundance of carrots for Britain’s rich. Iceland managed to lock up dozens of bankers and CEOs for crimes committed in the run-up to the 2008 financial crash – but not one senior banking executive has been jailed in Britain or the US for their roles in unleashing misery that millions continue to suffer from.
“Unleashing misery” isn’t actually a crime. Lying about your assets, a la Iceland, is. So, the reason Icelandic bankers went to jail is the usual sorta fraud etc stuff. And the reason British and US bankers didn’t is because they weren’t undertaking frauds etc.
The people who were acting illegally – Bernie Madoff say, Jeff Skilling – did go to jail. I’ve aided in jugging a few British fraudsters myself.
But, say, your bank falls over. OK, what’s the crime? A bank falling over isn’t a crime. Allowing one to isn’t either. Trading while insolvent’s a crime but then there aren’t any allegations that anyone did. Theft, that’s aq crime, but who is showing that bankers were stealing from their banks?
And so on. The reason no British bankers went to jail for the Crash – note that several did for rigging Libor etc – is that they didn’t commit any crimes.
Worth thinking on this distinction. Being wrong, being a fool, making a mistake, none of these are crimes. Perhaps they should be and it’s fine to argue that case but if we make it so then where are we going to get Labour MPs from?