The European Parliament and EU institutions generally are embroiled in criminal investigations involving international bribery and corruption. The UK has decended into a multitude of criminal scandals both real and alleged.
There is nothing new about politicians acting corruptly and seeking to fill their pockets through power and influence but one striking comment reported in the British press in recent days should worry everyone concerned about the future of democratic government.
Former British Health Secretary Sajid Javid commenting on the crisis facing that great British instution the National Health Service admitted that he “went along” with officials who told him to “fix it without touching it”.
This is, it can be reasonably said, an admission that government is subject to irrational and incompetent decision making that does not stop with the problems of the British health service.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – NATO – is at odds among its membership with its most powerful leaders such as the President of the United States reported as not understanding Germany’s position particularly over the supply of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has admitted being guilty of not wearing a seat belt by paying a £100 fixed penalty. It is not a criminal offence but it is on his record as is the penalty he paid for breaking Covid distancing rules while in office.
The seat belt affair could be an example of incompetent administration because Regulation 6F of the Motor Vehicle (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulation of 1993 states that anyone in a vehicle being used for police purposes is not required to wear a seat belt. Sunak was being driven by a uniformed police officer with a uniformed guard in the front passenger seat.
So, what does that tell us about the Downing Street officials or, for that matter, the competence of the police who issued the penalty?
As this was happening the Chairman of the governing Conservative Party and former UK Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi is reported as battling to save his political life after paying a tax settlement arising from a multi-million pound shareholding in the polling company YouGov. He has stated that the tax authority accepted he made a “careless but not deliberate error”.
In another brewing scandal involving former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who paid a fixed penalty for breaching Covid regulations because Downing Street officials were partying and boozing while people were unable to visit dying relatives, it is alleged that BBC Chairman Richard Sharp helped arrange a guarantee for an £800,000 loan for Johnson weeks before the then PM recommended him for his job.
European Parliament officials have been arrested and large sums of money seized by Belgian police investigating the so-called Qatar investigation. So everyone on both sides of the Channel need to remember and accept that famnous comment by British judge Viscount Sankey that “the golden thread of English law is that is is incumbent on the crown to prove guilt”.
More important is to remember that as the media and governments become ever more emeshed in scandals involving criminal activities and offences that carry fixed penalties that the so called golden thread has been broken, most certainly in the UK. There is now one law for politicians and their officials and another for the common herd.
There is little or no chance of the UK rejoining the EU but many remarks have been made about rebuilding a close relationship to the benefit of both sides. There may be some good news in the offing as current talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol and other matters progress. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that he regrets protocol being imposed without the support of unionists and nationalists. Another example of incompetence perhaps.
As talks on closer relationships continue the EU has, for what appears to be technical reasons, postponed its new entry/exit system requiring non EU citizens to have four finger prints taken and to be photographed at external borders.
Here lies an opportunity for the British government. The introduction of Identity Cards that could be accepted by the EU would allow for negotiation to exempt ID card holders from the EES fingerprint and photo requirements bearing in mind that UK immigration accept EU ID cards. This would boost tourism in EU countries.
It would aso avoid possible conflict involving the Court of Human Rights. Governments and administrators should remember that when justice is used for political purposes the rule of law is the same for all.
The UK still does not have an adequate expungement system. Apart from recently introduced legislation allowing the expungement of offences committed under the age of 18 minor offences known as misdeameanors and all other offences remain on record for 100 years from a persons date of birth except in Scotland which has a 25 year expungement system.
This is not the case in the EU whose member states comply with the recommendations of the Court of Human Rights. Minor offences in Germany are automatically expunged after three years and all other EU states have systems equivalent. Most states in the USA have recently adopted “second chance” measures incuding in a number of states felonies.
With the Metropolitan Police in the UK in the midst of wide ranging corruption investigatiuons of one sort or another politicians should remember that people who accept cautions offered by police to avoid charging them and going to court are admtting guilt and are subject to the UK’s draconian measures making them criminals for life.
Perhaps the inept officials in charge of the NHS should note that anyone guilty of even a very minor offence is barred from working in the medical profession. People found with traces of cannabis in a purse or pocket while at University accept cautions in order to complete their education and then find work abroad where the offence is no longer relevant.
Identity cards would prevent illegal migrants “dissapearing” and would deter cross channel illegal migration. They would deter non British citizens from exploiting the countries free health service. The arguements against ID cards are based on unfounded rubbish in this modern day and age when everthing about you, including facial recognition, is on record anyway.
So bring on expungement and ID cards and those in power could have the possibility of a second chance as might the approximately 26 million citizens currently subject to criminal records in the UK and consequent lack of employment opportunities.
This does not mean that we should not be tough on crime, but we should not be handing out what are effectively life sentences for misdemeanours.