‘Laws are like spider webs,” said the Scythian philosopher Anacharsis. “They will catch the weak and the poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.” He was describing the Athens of the 6th century BC but his cynicism applies as well to modern Britain.

Steal £1,000 of other people’s cash and you go to prison. Steal £1,000,000 of other people’s savings and you go to the House of Lords. Prosecutions of financiers have become so rare that last week a shocked press treated as news an announcement by the Financial Services Authority that it had arrested alleged insider dealers. By sending its officers to Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and Moore Capital, the Economist explained, the authority was demonstrating its new strategy of “credible deterrence”. As I understand it, “credible deterrence” differs from the FSA’s previous policy of “incredible deterrence” in one significant respect. Instead of doing nothing, the authorities have decided to enhance their credibility by taking the bold and innovative course of actually investigating potential criminals.

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  1. Absolutely spot on. I do voluntary work at a CAB in the Midlands. I have been dealing with the case of a lone parent who works at the same supermarket I do. Council tax and Housing benefit are extremely complex coupled with the fact that she has had a few pay increases from £5.84 an hour to the present £6.12 an hour. She has an over payment of £169 Council tax Benefit. The local Council are paying hard ball with her and she was interviewed by the fraud officer last week.

    She told me at work yesterday that they were taking action against her.

    She told me that she was thinking of giving work up but my short exchange with her and reading the article afterwards made me seeth. I thought that here is a woman who is trying her best to work and she is meeting this implacable attitude. If they do prosecute I wonder what the cost will be?

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