“The reality is it’s one rule for the most powerful people in Government and another for the rest of us, which is incredibly dangerous.” – Nick Symonds.
In a time when injustices are no longer brushed under the rug and forgotten, a frequent culprit of benefitting from a law-phobic armour of wealth, stature and privilege is the seemingly untouchable rich.
Brought to light more viscerally than ever before, the reality of the “in club” of top ranking politicians, businessmen and officials was displayed with clarity by means of the recent Dominic Cummings debacle. The “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality that appears to be seeded through the highest of society has led to huge disparities between the laymen and the elite.
Now, if you are wealthy enough, well versed and have the right connections, you are essentially impervious to the law. We are living in a time where there is one rule for us and another for them.
What is happening?
Amusingly coined the “Cummings and goings” of Dominic Cummings, the recent controversy surrounding the political strategist and ‘right hand man’ to PM Boris Johnson has unmistakably highlighted the depth of the issue. Irony truly resides in the inability for a key adviser to the British PM to follow his own rules – and yet the public is expected to obey.
Not only to have ‘let Cummings off’ without even a slap on the wrist, but Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have vehemently defended Cummings, suggesting his actions were “within the guidelines,” and that he had acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”. However, the punchline really hits with the assertion that Cummings followed the “instincts of every father” as police have been informed to fine parents whose children flout the lockdown rules.
The event was described by Nick Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Sec as “indefensible,” criticising Johnson for “descending into chaos and seriously undermining trust”.
This buddy mentality is criminal and should not go unpunished. Yet, unfortunately, Cummings is one of many examples from the UK.
Epstein and the Prince
Murmurs and rumours have surrounded Prince Andrew and his association to disgraced sex trafficker, paedophile and rapist, Jeffrey Epstein. In spite of persistent denial of all accusations, suspicions are once again at an all-time high following Netflix’s new documentary aptly titled Epstein: Filthy Rich, which placed the Prince in an incriminating position.
In 2019 Prince Andrew took to the press to defend himself – a rare move for royalty – yet many insist this placed him in a worse position than before. Twitchy and sheepish, his culpability was clear; nevertheless, his shield of riches protected him.
Defence by the Palace, the US Civil Court and even his ex-wife does not come as a surprise, when considering his position in society. Allegations from Ms Giuffre, previously Virginia Roberts, were deemed “immaterial and impertinent” by a judge in 2015 and were struck from US Civil Court records. Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace held that the claims were “false and without any foundation,” noting that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” was “categorically untrue”.
The problem also runs far deeper than this, from Jacob Rees-Mogg’s storage of millions from his capital management company in tax havens in the Cayman Islands, among a myriad of other Brexiteers, to Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” stint and a sea of sexual assault allegations.
The common theme emerges of the elite being outside of the law. Lest we forget, this slippery scheme of unaccountability, often created by those breaking it, is so deeply embedded in ‘the system’. In the US, although conditions were improved by the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, Congress is exempt from a range of legal necessities such as the Public Records Act, and protection against retaliation for whistle-blowers.
Irony lies in the importance of accountability in law and politics when those laws are not even adhered to by those who make them. The gap between the elite and the laymen is only growing, and this is a massive contributor. Seemingly, the world operates on a basis of who you know not what you know, which directly associates wealth and power, with law and politics.
Nick Cohen put this perfectly, describing the way that “Justice in Britain, a country that boasts it all but invented the presumption of innocence and trial by jury, is becoming a matter of money. We’re going the way of the United States and building a market-based rather than a rights-based system; where the rich have every advantage and the jails are filled with the black and the poor”.
Whether the legal system once aimed to protect the interest of all, or not, is not clear. However, what is clear is the ability to dodge the law when from a background of riches.
A US report by the Brookings Institution displayed concrete evidence that the wealthier your family are, the less likely you are to go to prison. Statistically, men from the poorest families were found to be 20 times more likely to go to prison than men from the richest families.
Although probably not surprising, the facts are nonetheless shocking. The significant economic impact of a prison sentence for these members of the poorest families further widens the gap between the untouchable rich and the imprisoned poor.
A time for change
Although the situation may appear to be worse in the US than the UK, we Brits are following suit. The anti-Robin Hood nature of the federal system and judiciary is clear, the Equal Justice Under Law organisation suggests: “From police to prosecutors to courts and legislatures, both federal and state systems benefit the rich while harming people who are poor”.
It all boils down to the relationship between wealth, power and the law: an age-old challenge, and most likely one without resolution.
Returning to Cummings, recent reports have noted that legal action will be taken again Public Prosecutor, Max Hill, for his inaction regarding Cumming’s breaches. Perhaps action is possible against this bracket of elitism in spite of their ‘buddy-buddy’ private boys club nature.
The issue is fiscal, political, legal and social. Essentially, if your mate is the Prime Minister, or you have friends in high places, you are probably not going to go to prison.