No peace for the wicked (except for big bad businesses)

Max Clifford. Stuart Hall. Just two of a lengthening list of public figures lately tried for decades-old sex offences.

Getting convictions is hard. I used to be a court reporter and know just how hard. Time and again, obviously-guilty defendants get off on technicalities. Or for lack of cast-iron proof or reliable witness testimony.

When they started charging celebs with sexual misconduct dating back to the 70s, 80s and 90s, I thought convictions would be unlikely. Not that the accused weren’t most probably guilty. Just that “no-witness” accusations from 30 years ago won’t usually stand up.

Happily, I was wrong. These bad guys’ pasts have caught up with them. Long-denied justice is finally being done. Hall admitted his guilt–if only in the hope of a lighter sentence.

There’s a theme developing here. Old guys. Old media guys. Old crimes and misdemeanours. No peace for the wicked. Blind eyes no longer being turned.

Today’s papers list Jeremy Clarkson’s long list of alleged on-air racist and homophobic slurs. He denies wrongdoing but patience is clearly wearing thin. Jeremy Paxman isn’t a crim or a boor. But his attempt to quit Newsnight gracefully is being marred with allegations of disloyal conduct.

The message to the public is: “We can and will hound individuals to their grave if we want to.” Amen to that if it makes sexual predators and other evil-doers think twice before screwing up some young person’s life.

But what about corporate wrongdoing? There is remarkably little of it. Well no. It’s rife. But no-one admits it and no-one gets prosecuted.

Today’s Naked Capitalism blog has another list of wrongdoers who’ve screwed the public with their unethical and illegal behaviours. The Pervasiveness of Health Care Corruption as Shown by Another Roundup of Legal Settlements. Its author concludes:

Yet there are very few examples of any individuals who gained ever being subject to any negative consequences. Given that lack, and the lack of any requirement for corporate leaders to admit responsibility, much less guilt, is it any surprise that these practices go on and on?

…to really deter bad behavior, those who authorized, directed or implemented bad behavior must be held accountable. As long as they are not, expect the bad behavior to continue.

Making the UK no country for nasty old men is a step in the right direction. But it won’t help if, like in the US, we remain a great country for bad big businesses.

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