The Economist‘s Leviathan blog argues that the state ought not to punish the well-heeled more severely than commoners. It offers Charlie Gilmour’s 16-month prison sentence for his hijinks in a London riot as its example.
Charlie Gilmour has the distinguished background of being a Cambridge University undergraduate, and the step-son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. In December of last year, Mr. Gilmour fortified his courage with some drugs and alcohol, thereby, in the words of his step-father’s band, becoming “comfortably numb.”
He then joined a student mob that attacked a business in London, where he “topped off the day’s activities by swinging from the Cenotaph”, the city’s memorial to its war dead. To add insult to injury, he “threw a bin at a convoy carrying the Prince of Wales and his wife.”
Well, I honestly cannot fault him for the last bit, for if I were suitably inebriated and saw the Prince, I probably would have done the same thing. Alas, that is a topic for another day.
Punishment for Being Posh
When the judge in Gilmour’s case meted out Charlie’s 16-months in prison as punishment, he noted that “You of all people, should have known better.”
He should have known better. However, that is no argument for a crime that physically harmed no one, and for which the typical sentence would be nothing more than community service. In fact, footballer Eric Cantona ended up receiving precisely that sentence after the more egregious crime of kicking a fan in the face.
Punishment for Being Poor
Of course, the criminal justice system exhibits the opposite tendency here in the United States. Take O.J. Simpson, for instance. Or many other wealthy public figures, who have enough money to hire expensive lawyers to help avoid convictions.
Ultimately, both systems are flawed.