Sunday, 22 December 2013

Equality Before the Law?

I'm grateful to a reader for pointing me in the direction of the following little-noticed story concerning one of this blog's mainstays, Serco. In another piece of extraordinary MoJ news management timing, only the day after both Serco and fellow pariah G4S were shamed into announcing their withdrawal from the TR omnishambles bidding process for probation, Serco was rewarded with another lucrative 25 year prison contract in London. Here's a piece in Business Week:-

Serco Group Plc (SRP) won a 120 million-pound ($200 million) contract extension to operate a London prison, a day after the U.K. services provider settled its bill for incorrect invoicing in a Ministry of Justice inquiry. Serco has managed the HMP Thameside prison in East London’s Plumstead district since it opened in March 2012 under a 415 million-pound, 26 1/2-year order. The extension will run for 22 years and includes a 36 million-pound, 18-month construction phase, Serco said in a statement.

“We are delighted to have been awarded this contract expansion to extend the size of the prison at Thameside which will support the MoJ in its program to modernize the U.K. prison estate,” said James Thorburn, Serco’s managing director for home affairs.
Serco rose 6.2 percent yesterday after the company reached a settlement with the U.K. government over claims it overcharged for the electronic tagging of prisoners. Shares were down 0.8 percent at 472.90 pounds as of 1:16 p.m. London time.
The Hook, England-based company agreed to pay 68.5 million pounds to settle the inquiry that has caused the resignation of its chief executive officer and shaved 30 percent off its share price since July. Serco’s settlement and the absence of additional issues are “positive” steps in rebuilding the company’s credibility and “significantly” shrinks the risk of it being barred from future U.K. government work, UBS said in a note today.
So yet again we have a clear example of the disparity between the way corporations are treated who break the law, and individuals. I notice that this theme of 'rehabilitation' and inequality before the law was explored recently in a comment piece over on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website:-

‘Rehabilitation’ is difficult to define when applied to criminal justice. Re-integration, re-settlement or re-entry are often used instead of re-habilitation. Yet all these terms imply that those to be ‘re-habilitated’/’re-integrated’/‘re-settled’ or ‘re-stored’ previously occupied a social state or status to which it is desirable they should return. Not so. Most criminal prisoners have, prior to their imprisonment, usually been so economically and/or socially disadvantaged that they have nothing to which they can be advantageously rehabilitated. They are returned to their place in society, but from that disadvantaged place they are repeatedly returned to prison. 
Rehabilitation programmes have tended to be reserved for poorer prisoners found guilty of crimes against property and for prisoners released after serving long sentences for non-business–related crimes. When poorer citizens break the law their needs are not viewed as deserving of rehabilitative measures by the state, but as risk factors predictive of future lawbreaking. By contrast, many white collar and corporate criminals are too embedded in, and/or too geographically dislocated from, local jurisdictions for prosecution to be possible. When successful prosecution occurs, rehabilitative measures aimed at changing greedy corporate mindsets are not seen as being necessary, desirable or possible. 
Rehabilitation is not seen as being necessary for corporate and other white collar criminals because their punishments seldom de-habilitate them in either material or status terms. Nor is rehabilitation considered to be desirable in terms of turning corporate offenders away from wrongdoing. Corporate lawbreaking is such a celebration of capitalist values that, on those infrequent occasions when offenders are brought to trial, they, unlike poorer criminals, are seldom assessed as criminals whose thinking requires changing. Governments are reluctant to see corporate criminals in court through fear that publicity will fuel calls for more corporate regulation, a destabilising of markets or an exodus of corporate capital to more sympathetic jurisdictions. Finally, rehabilitation is not seen as possible because corporate and other powerful criminals have such access to world-wide communications, global travel and hospitality that bringing them to trial is physically impossible. 
One way to stop thinking of criminal justice as being primarily about the crimes of the poor, might be to rethink crime and its regulation within a new social justice applicable to all classes: a justice seeking pay-back from lawbreakers from all classes to the state in proportion both to the harms committed and the ability to pay; and payback from the state to all those - whether law abiding or law breaking - whom it has failed materially and culturally in terms of ensuring satisfaction of their minimum needs. Outside of an inclusive justice based on equality before the law, rehabilitation policy has no relevance to the richest and most powerful criminals who pose the deadliest risks both locally and globally, and very little relevance to all those other prisoners who have never had anything to be rehabilitated to. 
Just as an aside to the issue of disparity is the seeming power the likes of the Daily Mail and 'public opinion' can have. Following Nigella Lawson's recent admission, whilst giving evidence on oath, of drug taking in the past, the police understandably announced that no further action was likely, as reported on the BBC website:-

TV cook Nigella Lawson will not face an investigation over claims she took cocaine, police have said.
Scotland Yard said it would not look into the allegations at this stage but would review the decision if new evidence came to light. Giving evidence at the trial of two former personal assistants, Ms Lawson said she had previously taken the drug. Sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo were cleared of defrauding Ms Lawson and her former husband Charles Saatchi.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Allegations that one of the (alleged) victims was involved in taking Class A drugs have been made during the course of this trial. "At this stage the Metropolitan Police will not be investigating these allegations. Should any evidence, and that includes material from the trial, that could be investigated come to light this decision will be reviewed."
But only a day later it seems that the decision has been reversed by someone, as reported on the BBC website:-

Police are to review TV cook Nigella Lawson's admission as a witness in a court case that she took cocaine.
Scotland Yard had said it would not take action but would review the decision if new evidence came to light. However, in a further statement the Met said a specialist team would "examine all the evidence emerging". Giving evidence at the trial of two former personal assistants, Ms Lawson said she had taken the drug, but was not a habitual user.

This change of mind is somewhat surprising because we all know it's not the taking of an illegal substance that constitutes an offence, but rather the possession beforehand that does.

Having said that though, we must have all come across the very unhappy situation where a person arrested on suspicion of shoplifting proves positive for opiates, thus triggering a mandatory drug treatment appointment, but subsequently the original theft allegation is withdrawn and they then stand to be punished for failing to attend the drug treatment appointment. Quite wrong and bizarre. 


  1. It will be interesting to see what sentence Denis McShane attracts tomorrow for fraudulent expense claims. Its out and out fraud too- not just fiddling or getting his numbers mixed up, its a calculated act of dishonesty for profit that he didn't even need.

    An aside- just seen this- more questions for MoJ.
    Two prisoners arrested for murder at HMP lindholme - bbc news.

    1. Yes I'm sure I read somewhere recently that as many as 75 MP's should have been in court for expenses fraud, but I can't find the link now.

      Lindholme story here:-

      Two prisoners have been arrested on suspicion of murder after a 22-year-old inmate died at HMP Lindholme near Doncaster.

      South Yorkshire Police said they were contacted by prison officials following the death on Saturday.

      The force said the arrested men were aged 23 and 26.

      The dead man's family has been informed and a post-mortem examination is due to take place later.

  2. Would be very interesting for this blog to follow what Ernst and Young are up to. Grayling must be worried to have brought them in as consultants at this stage and very determined to press ahead at all costs. It can only be financial viability that is his main concern so just who in the list of bidders is he so worried about?

    1. Yes agreed - Can anyone supply a link referring to their involvement? Cheers.

    2. There appears not a lot to be found, except note to their involvement with Working Links in the past. However on the link of Working Links (who are big enough to take on a vast amount of TR work), it says this

      Ernst & Young Consulting merged with Gemini Consulting, a branch of Cap Gemini... It has delivered contracts on behalf of government departments primarily to get ...and offender rehabilitation programmes on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

      If you then look at the working links wikipedia page the relationships seem a little insestious.

    3. link here might be of interest:

    4. text for above:

      The auditors of Christmas savings club Farepak, which collapsed seven years ago, have been ordered to pay more than £1m in fines and costs.

      The company, which was based in Swindon, Wiltshire, went into administration in 2006 leaving 116,000 people with total losses of £37m.

      The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has fined Ernst and Young £750,000 and told them to pay costs of £425,000.

      Auditor Alan Flitcroft, who worked for the accountants, was fined £50,000.

      Ernst and Young and Mr Flitcroft, who were also formally reprimanded by the FRC, admitted their auditing fell below the expected standard.

      Customers had invested money with the scheme as a way of saving for Christmas.

      Paul George from the FRC said: "The FRC is pleased with the outcome of this case, which sends a strong clear reminder to all accountants and accountancy firms that they have a responsibility to carry out their professional work with due skill, care and diligence in the audit of subsidiary entities and obtain corroborative evidence to support management representations."

  3. Working in london I can state with some confidence that thameside are considered as the worst, most godawful prison to work with. Interestingly you get opposing views from offenders. Some love it because its seen as a soft touch and they can pretty much do as they please. Others hate it and bemoan the rise of the "tesco officer"

  4. Cap Gemini consultants previously undertook a review of the Courts so there is some expertise there. This needs watching because there is something in their involvement at this stage that says all is not well, they are expensive to use and I suspect are being employed due to the risk register. Come on someone must know something.....

    1. another link between Grayling & EY:

    2. Blog text for above link:

      Grayling virtually calls Hutchinson a liar

      There is no doubt whatever over which side Chris Grayling is on. On Channel 4 News tonight he said that there are "serious question marks about how substantial and how correct the evidence ... is; serious potential misunderstandings." The evidence, of course, is that which Eddie Hutchinson gave to the Public Accounts Committee about what he'd found at A4e. But Grayling insists, "We haven't found fraud at A4e," after the investigation by Ernst & Young. And now he's attacking the PAC, accusing them of not disclosing this evidence until the meeting, when it should have gone to those conducting the audit for the DWP. Says Channel 4 News, "Mr Duncan Smith's letter continued: 'I can only reach the conclusion that the committee has held back details from the DWP in order to generate media coverage.'"

      Margaret Hodge says that she's very upset about the leak to the Telegraph and will launch an enquiry. The initial Telegraph story suggested that the paper had simply spoken to someone who was there at the meeting. The subsequent publication of the document containing his evidence must have a similar source; it's annotated, as if it's one of those copies handed out to committee members.

      With Grayling's colours pinned firmly to the mast, Hutchinson is now being portrayed as a liar. Perhaps A4e will try to paint him as an embitterd ex-employee who failed in his job. How can the rest of us know who's right? There's one point which might clarify matters. Hutchinson didn't join A4e until 2010. It was a year before that when A4e compiled its own internal report which showed serious fraud and potential fraud. So was that seriously incorrect as well?

      If you get all your news from the BBC you wouldn't know anything about this. As usual, they are pretending it hasn't happened.

    3. Ernst and Young would never find fraud at A4e because they partly own them. It stinks.

  5. Here's and interesting link re Ernst and Young.

    1. The big question often asked by Irish journalist Vincent Browne is how come the accountancy firms who were responsible for auditing the vaingloriously failed Irish Banks didn’t seem to notice that these institutions were headed for trouble well in advance of the infamous Sept 28th 2008 Blanket Bank Guarantee, which ultimately destroyed our economy and cost us our sovereignty?

      The Big 4 audit firms are PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. None are single firms but rather accountancy networks. They are owned and managed locally but sign up to a common name, brand and quality standards. An accountancy/auditing version of a franchise if you will. Each network has an entity which in not involved in accountancy services but co-ordinates the network. They do not own or control the member firms. Some networks may have more than one co-ordinating entity which is area specific.

  6. It says on the working links wikipedia that they were established in 2000 by "the executive shareholder, manpower, and ernst and young consultancy".
    If working links are indeed on the list of bidders for TR contracts, and ernst and young are being used by the MoJ to consult and advise regarding TR, then isn't there a personal interest involved that requires explaining?

  7. Ernst and Young couldn't see the crash coming even though they they were "Doing" the books of the Irish banks. And the MOJ are relying on those fools to push through TR.

    It gets very dirty very quickly when you have accountants ,banks and politicians in the mix; no wonder we are fighting for our professional lives

    1. ernst&young were the primary sponsors of the guardian's "policy leaders" project which was espousing the basis of TR in 2011.

    2. and here's John Dixon, head of tax at EY, answering (or trying not to) PAC questions from Margaret Hodge et al about Google's alleged tax, or lack of...

      How can a firm advising corporate multinationals about tax minimisation to the point of zero, thus damaging this country's economy, be allowed access to this government, or advise this country's government about anything at all?!?

  8. From the Birmingham Post (hopefully not a repeat item):

    Questions asked as closed courthouses cost £22,000 a month

    Ministers say the aim was to dispose of buildings which were unfit to be courts and deny Labour claims the policy was designed to save money.
    Taxpayers are spending more than £22,000 a month on maintaining empty courthouses closed by the Government because ministers can’t find a buyer for the buildings which were closed as part of a cull announced in 2010.
    Ministers said at the time that the aim was to dispose of buildings which were unfit to be courts, and denied Labour claims that the policy was designed to save money.
    But since then, a number of properties have been sold. The former Rugby Magistrates’ and County Court went for £285,000 when it was sold on the open market, while the former Sutton Coldfield magistrates court was sold for £440,000.
    The figures were released by Ministers in response to questions in Parliament.
    But the same figures show that a number of buildings have been sold and are standing empty.
    They include Burton-upon-Trent County Court in Staffordshire, which is costing taxpayers £3,683 a month to maintain.
    Market Drayton Magistrates’ Court in Shropshire is costing £3,894 per month.
    Oswestry Magistrates’ Court & County Court in Shropshire is also empty. The estimated maintenance cost is just £77 a month because it is part of a larger complex and other parts of the building are used.
    Redditch County Court in Worcestershire is costing £2,705 a month to maintain.
    Stoke-on-Trent Magistrates’ Court is costing £10,804 per month.
    And Stourbridge County Court in the Black Country is costing £1,433 per month.

    Quizzed in the House of Commons, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Clearly, we want to sell an unused property as soon as we can, and we are working to do so, but we of course need to have a buyer before we can sell it, and we are constantly looking for buyers.”

    Ministers say that the closure program was saved taxpayers a total of £31.3 million up to September this year.
    But MPs are campaigning to try to prevent further closures.
    Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North) presented a petition to the Commons signed by 2,000 people opposing plans to transfer criminal cases from Dudley Magistrates Court to criminal courts in Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Walsall.
    He said: “The fact that 2,000 people have signed our petition in just a few weeks shows how strongly local people feel.
    “Magistrates, victims, witnesses and others directly involved with the court tell me that closure would make it harder for local victims to testify, harder for local people to volunteer in court and harder for the press to deter crime by reporting on local cases.
    “Local people want to see criminals held to account for the crimes they commit in Dudley.”
    Under the Government’s plans, all criminal casework would cease at Dudley Magistrates’ Court, in The Inhedge.
    Instead defendants in the region would have to travel to Sandwell and Walsall to have their cases heard. Meanwhile all trials in the Black Country would instead go to Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court along with youth cases.
    Dudley would become a civil, family and tribunal centre under the scheme which is out to consultation until October 21.
    Raising concerns in the House of Commons, Valerie Vaz (Lab Walsall South) asked: “Will the Justice Secretary confirm that there will be no further court closures, which could undermine the administration of justice?”
    Mr Grayling told her: “We will continue to review the court estate on an ongoing basis, but at this time I have no plans for substantial court closures. There might be occasional changes in the system, such as those we have seen recently in Liverpool, but I am not planning major changes to the court estate at this time.”
    Labour has claimed that some courthouses appear to have been sold off below market rate and taxpayers are not getting value for money.

  9. Do not let the Ernst and Young thing go, it is important