Equality before the law?

Issue 

Equality before the law?

By Tony Iltis

HOBART — On March 4, Robyn Scotney from Bridgewater was jailed for a year for "defrauding the commonwealth". Her actual crime? She had failed to notify Centrelink that she was in a "de facto" relationship.

During Scotney's trial, the court was told that her partner did not financially support her and, since he works shifts, he is unable to adequately look after Scotney's children, one of whom is disabled. The fact that Scotney's jailing would therefore leave them parentless did not impress the judge, who said: "The magnitude of your criminal conduct ... means that a substantial period of imprisonment must be ordered".

The attitude of the "justice" system to Scotney contrasts sharply with its attitude to rorting politicians, such as Noel Crichton-Browne and Michael Cobb, both of whom were also recently convicted of "defrauding the commonwealth".

While Scotney's crime was receiving welfare benefits which enabled her and her children to survive, the politicians were in court for rorting money over and above parliamentary wages and perks exceeding $100,000 a year. Neither Crichton-Browne nor Cobb were sent to jail, and they will keep their superannuation entitlements of more than $1 million each.

In Cobb's case, the judge decided "he had already suffered enough", while self-confessed wife-basher Crichton-Browne was described by the judge as "of good character".

The empathy judges seem to feel for politicians, and their lack of empathy for an impoverished parent struggling to bring up two children, is easily explained: judges and politicians are from the same social class.