The media today is full of the news that Rebekah Brooks, former head of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper empire is to be charged with perverting the course of justice. Social media is full of opinion, mostly assuming that she is guilty and getting what she deserves. I am not so sure.
A lengthy and costly investigation has been going on for over a year and is estimated to have cost $65 million already, there have been plenty of allegations but few court appearances.
It seems to my untrained and cynical eye that the authorities are desperate to find a high-profile sacrificial lamb to justify the time and cost of the investigation. Will they also charge the Murdochs? Those two might be tougher nuts to crack than the well spoken red-head.
Interesting that her husband, a race horse trainer has also been charged. Quite a stretch from training horses to perverting the course of justice in a newspaper scandal.
I am not trying to minimise the seriousness of the alleged phone tapping carried out by News of the World employees or contracted private investigators, if Rebekah Brooks was directly involved in that then that’s what she should be charged with. It was a despicable tactic to spy on the private conversations of people.
But it looks remarkably like the British authorities are reading from the same play book that the Chicago prosecutors used to eventually convict Conrad Black. Most of the original charges did not stand up in court so they got him on the comparatively minor charge of obstructing justice. Charges which far better minds than mine have publicly stated would not have stood a chance of conviction in a Canadian court.
There have long been suggestions that different standards of justice apply to the rich or famous. It seems that there is some truth in those suggestions, but not in the way it was previously thought.
Now it seems that if you are a successful person who falls out of favour, you are more likely to be subject to intense scrutiny and eventual prosecution on charges that would not be used against the average person. Your value as a prosecutors trophy increases in line with your success, fame or social standing. If there is something controversial, elegant or physically attractive about you, so much the better. Rebekah Brooks seems to have joined the same club as Martha Stewart, Conrad Black and others.
Which goes to show that a high-profile is great when things are going well, but downright dangerous when the wheels come off or when someone in authority sees you as an easy or convenient target.
Many people see these vindictive attacks on high-profile figures as a form of poetic justice. In some cases that might be correct. I see it as a far more worrying reminder of the spread of big government and the “nanny state” mentality.
If people with the financial and other resources of those mentioned above cannot protect themselves when a gung-ho prosecutor or investigator gets them in his sights, what hope is there for those of us with far more limited resources?
Makes you think twice about getting in the spotlight as a successful business person. It’s enough of a threat I would think to put most sensible people off the idea of ever running for a political appointment too.
Perhaps Rebekah Brooks is guilty of serious crimes, in which case let the courts charge her for those crimes and let justice take it’s course, but it is concerning when this seems to be one more example of punishing someone because he or she was successful and has now become an easy, high-profile target for ambitious prosecutors and a vindictive system.
With this type of vindictive prosecution becoming more common, is it any wonder that successful people move their wealth off shore, put it into trusts, create firewalls and use every legal means possible to protect it from voracious prosecutors and opportunistic litigation.
Even if the target, like Rebekah Brooks may well find, is found innocent of all charges, the damage to both reputations and bank balances will be considerable. Should they in turn sue for compensation, it will be the taxpayers that foot the bill.
It also should make us think about how much power we are putting in the hands of potential future inquisitors every time we trumpet how successful we are on Facebook or any other social media.
What do you think? Is Rebekah Brooks getting her just reward or is she being thrown to the wolves?
Wishing you success (and freedom) in all your endeavours.
For ideas on how to create and protect wealth, check out this video from the Elevation Group.
Graphic from Wikipedia