Tory peer Lord Hanningfield is just out after a couple of months in HMP Standford Hill, a minimum security open prison of the type that the newspapers which support his party routinely characterise as ‘holiday camps’.
True, he still has to wear one of those electronic tags, and is subject to a 7.15pm curfew, which must somewhat curtail one’s opportunities to enjoy a G&T or two with the chaps at the local Conservative Club.
But he’s an old man, and I guess the punishment was pretty much in line with the gravity of his offences, which consisted in ripping the taxpayer off for £14,000 by fiddling his House of Lords expenses.
We could compare and contrast Lord Hanningfield’s treatment with the often lengthier custodial sentences dished out to youth who nick a pair of trainers from Foot Locker, single mums who don’t get a telly licence, junkies who knock out a bit of gear to subsidise their own habits, and the other flotsam and jetsam that make up the bulk of the largest prison population in Europe. But that is not going to be the point of this post.
It is even the case that Hanningfield has been suitably contrite, and has vowed to work for prison reform if he ever regains a position of influence in politics. But that isn’t going to be the point of this post, either.
What caught my eye in the BBC’s sympathetic coverage of Hanningfield’s story was this quote:
Before I went to prison I felt I could almost have been in Guantanamo Bay because I was having such a hard time.
Sorry, Lord H. For a start, you got a fair trial and you were convicted of your offences. Few inmates at Gitmo enjoyed these basic human rights.
Nor is it likely that you were subjected to Korean War-era Chinese torture techniques during your period on bail. If you had to endure sleep deprivation, that was on account of a guilty conscience rather than ill treatment by camp guards. Let’s not even get on to the waterboarding.
Perhaps you might like to swap notes with some of the British nationals or UK residents that are now back from an unwanted stay in Cuba. Hopefully they will be able to put you straight on this one.