Steve Beauchampé takes issue with government and corporate hypocrisy, tazered with a dose of racist malignancy within the private sector.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced on Thursday that they were considering bringing criminal charges against former Rotherham Labour MP Denis McShane for falsely claiming over £12,000 in expenses. If successfully prosecuted, McShane would become the latest of several MPs to face trial over the expenses issue, with a number having been sent to prison.
That same day, the government revealed that two private companies. Serco and G4S, have fraudulently claimed ‘tens of millions of pounds’ (a figure of £50m has been suggested) of public money while undertaking contracts with the Home Office to electronically monitor offenders. Serco are apparently co-operating with the government appointed auditors over the issue, G4S are not. Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told the House of Commons that the Serious Fraud Office was considering the possibility of criminal prosecutions.
Damn right they should be! If MPs are prosecuted and jailed for misdemeanours amounting to a few thousand pounds, and when benefit recipients are sometimes prosecuted for fraudulently claiming even smaller amounts, the enormity of the alleged transgressions committed by the management of Serco and G4S must result in severe punishments, up to and including imprisonment, for those responsible at each company for this grand theft of public money,
Not that anyone should be particularly surprised, at least where G4S is concerned. On Tuesday an inquest jury found three G4S employees guilty of ‘unlawful killing’ over the death of Angolan Jimmy Mubenga, whom they forcibly held down in an airline seat for around forty minutes whilst attempting to affect his deportation from the UK. Extreme racist texts were later found on the mobile ‘phones belonging to two of the guards. A most disturbing report on the case a couple of years ago on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme contained an interview with a passenger who, on seeing the activities of the G4S staff and hearing their victim’s pleas that he could not breath, complained to airline staff. In response he was told to stop causing a nuisance before being himself ordered to leave the plane. The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently decided that the G4S employees responsible for the man’s death should not be prosecuted. It now seems possible that this scandalous decision might be revisited, although the term ‘unlawful killing’ is essentially meaningless legal terminology devised by the state to ensure that its representatives are almost never charged with murder or manslaughter.
G4S of course are the company whose spectacular failure to deliver on promises and contracts regarding security for the 2012 London Olympics resulted in the police and army having to step in at exceedingly late notice to cover for their incompetence.
That should have been that as far as G4S and the outsourcing of public services was concerned. Yet the company remains an enormous and seemingly increasing beneficiary of public largesse in the UK, particularly within the penal and justice system (for instance it runs Birmingham’s Winson Green Prison) and it returns a considerable profit from both its UK and worldwide operations.
But G4S are themselves serial lawbreakers and those with the power to bring them to account repeatedly do nothing. The form taken by their lawbreaking may appear minor but the fact that they flout the law with such arrogance is testimony to a company out of control. Take a walk down your local High Street any weekday and you won’t have to wait long to see G4S vans illegally parked (on double yellow lines, on pavements, sometimes double parked) and with no consideration for the general public. I twice protested about this in 2011 and the response I received was telling. Following regular blocking of a local bus stop by G4S vans I approached one of their drivers and asked him to desist (off road parking being available immediately outside the shop with which G4S were conducting business). His response was to make an obscene gesture. Later, when I asked a parking attendant why he ignored a G4S van parked on double yellow lines outside the Morrison’s store in Shirley, while ticketing other vehicles, I was told that, “If I ticket them I’ll get the sack”. In reality, he probably wouldn’t, but he knew that he’d be wasting his time as the tickets would be rescinded. G4S’s drivers do this several times a week and just ten yards from Shirley Police Station. Remember, this is a private company delivering/collecting from other private companies and their vehicles do not display any permits giving them temporary impunity.
But whether it is robbing the public purse of a small fortune, killing a man or repeatedly breaking road traffic regulations, there seems to be a culture at G4S that the company is above or immune from the law. As Andrew Neilson of the Howard League for Penal Reform put it, “This is what happens when you privatise the justice system.”