The other day a member of an organised crime gang was convicted of a two month campaign of blackmail and intimidation against an innocent businessman. The man’s car was torched and he was threatened with serious injury. He and his wife were left traumatised.
The perpetrator had 25 convictions for various crimes, including wounding, and had served a ten-year sentence for armed robbery. He was by any standards a violent, unrepentant career criminal, and a danger to those around him.
He got six years.
A few days before, a young conman was found to have deprived a number of already affluent investors of a total of £21 million by means of an elaborate scam involving a fake dealing room.
He got seven years. I know which one I would rather see inside, and which I would be happy to walk past on the street.
We have this weird attitude to fraudulent crime. Banks can indulge in organised behaviour that is deliberately designed to deprive customers of their cash, in exchange for products they do not need, but this need not be followed by any criminal action. As it happens, one of the recent banking misdeeds that came to light involved the depriving of customers of a sum in excess of £23 million, which should have, logically, attracted a tariff slightly higher than our amateur fraudster.
Two other things about our scam artist. These were affluent investors, not widows and orphans, who presumably knew their way around the financial world. But they were happy to entrust their money to a smart-talking 24 year old. There must be some degree of contributory negligence or contributory stupidity.
Second, such scams generally involve the offer of returns that are substantially and implausibly more than you could possibly expect to get elsewhere. There is a saying in the investment world, if it looks too good to be true, it generally is. A degree of contributory greed there, too, perhaps.