The punishment of white collar crime (i.e. non-violent crime committed in a professional environment for financial gain) has vexed the legal justice system for years. The Biblical solution of “an eye for an eye” suggests that a financial penalty would be most suitable, but few people are happy with this – not least because white collar criminals are fairly canny about squirrelling away their loot and claiming to have little to repay. Custodial sentences are used for different, often overlapping, purposes (among them, punishment, deterrence, and removal of the threat from society) and are generally thought to be appropriate in cases of serious white collar crime. The length of the sentence is another matter.
The debate has been brewing again in the US, as in this article and this one. The basic premise seems to be that stealing someone’s money, albeit in a non-violent way, still robs them of their future security and their trust in their fellow man. Moreover, white collar crime (rather than, say, street robbery, which has always been harshly punished) tends to take more of someone’s money – their entire life savings, rather than whatever they have in their wallet that day.
Guernseymen and others are on tenterhooks at the moment, waiting for the sentencing of Paul Ludden on 6 July. Mr Ludden, an ex-banker, has pleaded guilty to money laundering. Previous sentences for laundering in Guernsey have been light, but the word on the street is that the recession has reduced people’s tolerance for those who enrich themselves at the expense of others. We shall see.