Thursday, 22 January 2009

"serious and substantial"

Obviously not a description of Peter Hain but part of the verdict of the Standards and Privileges Committee. The whole report is full of the usual verbiage, which I will wade through at the weekend, but the conclusion is worth a read (my emphasis):
"We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Hain's failure to register donations on this scale is both serious and substantial. We are bound to take this into account, notwithstanding the facts that Mr Hain has apologised unreservedly, and that he acted with commendable speed to rectify his omissions once he discovered them, without waiting for others to invite him to do so. Because of the seriousness and scale of this breach and noting the considerable, justified public concern that it has created, we would ordinarily have been minded to propose a heavier penalty. However, we accept that there was no intention to deceive and Mr Hain has already paid a high price for his omissions. We therefore recommend that Mr Hain apologise by means of a personal statement on the floor of the House."

So Peter Hain escapes with the equivalent of slapped wrist, despite his failure being described as "serious and substantial", partly because he has already paid a high price - presumably this means losing his Cabinet job. Is this the sort of plea in mitigation that any barrister can use from now on?
"M'lud I would ask that despite finding my client guilty of murdering his wife you take into account the fact that he has already suffered enough by virtue of recently becoming a widower and so not send him to prison."

The BBC spent so long tearing Caroline Spelman apart when she was accused of impropriet, who will forget the Newsnight expose. I wonder now that Peter Hain has been found to have failed to register donations in a way that is "serious and substantial" if Newsnight will spend even half as long on this story. I think we all know the answer to that.

1 comment:

John M Ward said...

Actually, I have noticed that all these allegations and whatever, regardless of their nature, the evidence and anything else, have tended to end up with the same result: the slapped wrist.

I agree that Spelman made what has to be viewed as a genuine slip-up in her early days of trying to cope with ever more complex rules and regulations, and corrected the situation once it was pointed out.

Hain's case, on the other hand, was involved with an apparently fake Think Tank and all sorts, which I think most people would place in a different category altogether.