Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Friday, 16 December 2011

Margaret Moran & the face of crime

Margaret Moran MP (c) Richard Lea Hair

Yesterday, The Guardian reported that former Labour M.P. Margaret Moran, accused of falsely claiming £80,000 in expenses, and her legal team would be making an application for a “nolle” to the attorney general. This would allow the case against her to be discontinued on exceptional grounds.

If granted, Moran would not stand trial. Instead, a jury would assess the merits of the case in her absence at a trial of issue. Jim Sturman, her Q.C., stated:
"These proceedings are a continual threat to her life, not just to her liberty, and the experts agree that she is unfit to plead."
Three pyschiatric experts have evaluated Moran and all come to the conclusion that she is unfit to plead. Sturman himself talks of his only meeting with Moran, in which she cried during the whole conference, and refers to a previous hearing at Westminster magistrates court, in which she sobbed uncontrollably in the dock.

I understand that it is considered more beneficial for defendants to attend their trial so that they can defend themselves more adequately. However, with the team that she has on board, the public display of her illness, and people's general disdain for M.P.'s expenses abuse, I wondered whether her absence would harm her case.

If not, do others with less (financial/political?) clout have access to the same recourse?

Kelly (2000), amongst others, has conducted research into links between inequality and crime. The Ministry of Justice report on the UK riots reveal the depth of the links between social exclusion, inequality, poverty and transgressions of the law.
  • 35% of adult rioters were claiming out of work benefit, almost three times the national average (12%)
  • 64% of child rioters lived in the country's most social excluded areas
  • 66% of child rioters were classified as having special education needs, again three times the national average (22%)

Social exclusion, inequality and poverty are also linked to mental health problems. Therefore, if we accept that the majority of those passing through our criminal justice system are from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, then we also have to accept that many will pass through the system with similar issues to those of Margaret Moran.

Moran is using a Q.C. Q.C.s cost a lot more than less qualified barristers. By using a more prominent, and presumably, more knowledgeable barrister, this will have enabled Moran to pursue this course of action.

Furthermore, Moran was examined by three psychiatrists over a period of two years. Again, this will have cost a lot of money. All this will be quite different to the legal (aid?) access that those living in poverty will have recourse to.

Looted Sainsburys local, Chalk Farm (c) hughepaul
Looking back at Sturman's statement regarding his client, it is difficult to find any reason why Moran should receive better treatment than the children who have been criminalised as a result of their wrongdoings during the summer riots. There is a large gulf between the alleged crimes of Moran and child rioters.

Not only will these children have had emotional needs, not dissimilar to Moran's, but arguably this is a greater threat to their life, because their criminalisation threatens their life chances; unemployment, poorer physical health, further mental health problems, and an earlier death.

Due to her influence, Moran will be able to distance, and anonymise herself, by her absence at her trial, yet children have lost their right to anonymity in the UK criminal justice system. Those in power want us to remember who 'criminals' are, regardless of their age and the protection that we should afford them.

I am minded of Reiman's 'pyrrhic defeat theory'. This maintains that the way in which the criminal justice system, and criminal justice policy, works is to perpetuate the myth that 'criminal activities' are solely associated 'with the dangerous acts of the poor' (Reiman, 1998).

In other words, a burgeoning prison population, peopled by those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, is a loss leader for governments, because it diverts the public's attention away from crimes committed by the powerful.

This case is just another example of what the face of crime looks like. 


  1. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

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  2. Very kind of you to say so. Follow-up post coming out later this evening, further demonstrating the unequal power balance in criminal justice systems. Enjoy what you have left of your weekend.

  3. I am so disgusted that the ex-MP Margaret Moran was able to escape prison on Friday the 14th of December when a team of so-called experts [or softies more likely] decreed that Moran was too doo-lally to enter a plea. This is a sickening example of a feeble society where nobody is willing to accept responsibility for anything. When our political superiors lack the integrity to put their hands up and admit their own wrongdoing and have the courage to face the consequences, like the rest of us poor bastards, then this country is finished. No wonder, the yoof go looting, when they see the middle-class law-makers deteriorate into white-collar law-breakers. The trouble with the actress, Margaret Moron, is that having been a legislator [and by implication, a parliamentary law-maker], she knows how the system works, and is therefore ideally placed to work the system in her cowardly favour. She is one of many bourgeois villains who appear to be too ill to stand trial but who were in perfectly rude health to commit crime in the first place. Chirac in France and Mubarak in Egypt are but two recent examples of folk ‘doing a Petain’ and faking ill health in order to achieve leniency. There should be a re-trial. Otherwise British justice is a sick joke. As someone who broke the law many years ago, I had to take my punishment on the chin. It would be good if other high-ranking hypocrites accepted blame too and took responsibility for their actions, like the rest of us plebs. To thwart justice and cling onto their pampered lifestyle sends out a terrible signal to the rest of the society. I believe that the expression that springs to mind is: “one rule for them; one rule for the rest of us”. Well, I am fucking livid about you Margaret Moron.
    Gary Watton