Too Posh To Pay: But what’s the REAL issue?

by Lynn Connolly

Last night’s Too Posh To Pay looked in depth at so called white collar crimes; crimes committed by people who are middle class and on the face of it, respectable people.

These are people who are ripping off their employers, stealing from customers, buying stolen goods, fiddling insurance claims and even breaking into homes to fund their aspirational lifestyles.

And therein lies the crux of the matter; for ‘aspirational’ read ‘greedy’. Every single one of the people in last night’s programme who’d committed a ‘white collar crime’ had done so out of a wish to have more than they’d got. End of.

I don’t really know why it is that this comes as a surprise to anyone. I don’t think class or social status has anything to do with it, except in dictating how one is likely to commit crime. The fact is, we all want more than we have; it’s almost a biological imperative. If it wasn’t, we’d all be happy living in shacks and wearing clothing that is functional and nothing else.

For instance, at the poorest end of the social strata, many people would love to have a car. In the middle, most people have a car but want a better one while at the top of the scale, people with lots of money may have ten different cars but they still want a Ferrari or Aston Martin.

Ditto housing, clothing, mobile phones, holidays… it doesn’t matter what we already have, many of us still want more so as I say, it came as no surprise to me that middle class people are now every bit as – if not more – likely to commit crimes for gain than the ‘lower’ classes.

My problem with it all is that as a nation, we seem to place more value on money and what it can bring than almost anything else, and this is reflected by how our judiciary system deals with crimes.

There were several examples of middle class crime highlighted last night, all of which you can read about here.

There was Jane who turned to burglary simply because she was bored; she ended up being sentenced to six years in prison. Then there was Graham who – though not interviewed, his crimes were discussed – embezzled and conned millions out of his employers and customers to fund his gambling addiction. He was sentenced to twelve years. We also met John who carried out art frauds to the tune of about a million pounds and spent a year in prison for it.

There were many similar cases highlighted and again, greed and the ability to carry out the crime were the only two precursors to each person doing what they did.

However, for me, this programme was more about what wasn’t discussed and that is the broader implications about society more than the individuals or the statistics. The fact is – as I mentioned earlier – we are a nation obsessed with money and gain but more worrying though is that the justice system seems to often place more value on monetary considerations than on people.

For example, here are a few headlines where crimes that affected people’s lives in a non-monetary way attracted sentences similar to those given for the frauds and thefts detailed above…

“A British paedophile has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after raping a 15-year-old girl that he met in an Internet chatroom.”

“One of Britain’s most prolific internet groomers has been sentenced to almost six years behind bars. He lured hundreds of young girls by promising mobile phone vouchers in exchange for naked images.”

“A prolific mugger who carried out dozens of robberies in Liverpool was sentenced to three years detention today”

“TWO teenage boys who mugged a Runcorn granny for her pension money have been put into secure units for two years. One jumped on the 80-year-old’s back and the other snatched her handbag as he laughed in her face, Warrington Crown Court heard last Friday.”

“Drunk driver jailed… He was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving while over the prescribed limit and jailed for two-and-a-half years.”

“A DRUNK driver has been jailed for killing a father and son when his car smashed into theirs on the M62. Thirty-two-year-old Imran Hussain of Como Avenue, Bradford has been sentenced to eight years in prison. He was also given a 15-year driving ban.”

I am a big fan of the band Rage Against the Machine and in one of their music videos about just this subject – the inequality of valuing money above life – carried a message at the end that read: “No money was harmed during the making of this film”

That says it all really.

Yes, of course crimes where money is stolen are awful for the victims, but is it as awful as being raped, threatened at knifepoint or killed? Surely not. Why then are the sentences similar?

This was an interesting programme but nonetheless, I think the time could’ve been better dedicated to highlighting injustices within the justice system, but there again, there’s no money to be made at that is there?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.