'Crackdown nets benefit cheat whom fraudulently claimed more than £6600,' announces the headline of a recent article referring to a Wilmslow lady prosecuted by Cheshire East. She claimed to be living alone on a low income but was found to have a partner supporting her financially.
Is that 'cheating'? Obviously it is and she now has a criminal record that will blight her life inhibiting her ability to gain employment or credit.
Some time ago a wheelchair bound lady contacted me in real distress. She had failed to declare a change in her circumstances that would reduce her benefits. Cheshire East planned to prosecute and she was distraught.
I don't know the detail but I doubt the amount was sufficient for a world cruise. Nevertheless it was defrauding the taxpayer and the council did their duty.
Everybody happy so far?
Mmm... let us now consider Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Executive Fred Goodwin who, as his bank collapsed (with our savings), walked away with a massive multi-million-pension pot. His only punishment being the forfeit of his undeserved Knighthood.
Barclay's Bank was found to have 'fixed' Libor rates ensuring millions of individuals and businesses paid more for credit. The departure of key executives being the only sanction.
There is no record of any prosecutions following the massive PPI scandal nor does there appear to be any penalty for the derisory UK tax paid by major international corporations. It may be legal but moral it is not.
Meanwhile our MP's were flipping like dolphins and claiming it was 'all within the rules' which, of course, it would be as Westminster determines its own.
So, while I have no argument against the prosecution of cheats and fraudsters I'd like to start at the top and work down rather than the reverse.
I'm guessing taxpayers would benefit more from the prosecution of arrogant, greedy bankers and multi-national corporations than a single mum who has an 'undeclared' partner or a disabled lady receiving more benefits than she should.
Call me cynical but I can't help thinking the decision to prosecute is based more on the financial clout of the 'offender' than the gravity of the 'crime.' It would require a huge stretch of the imagination to believe justice or the taxpayer was better served prosecuting the defenseless for a few grand while turning a blind eye to multi-billion pound manipulation.
Would it not be more honest to admit that justice for the poor is entirely different than justice for the rich and powerful? At least we could skip the hypocrisy.
Do we really want to fund failed banks and forgo enormous tax revenues while persecuting the poorest and weakest members of society for small change?
Let me know your opinion.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of wilmslow.co.uk.