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Did the homeless man who stole a marathon medal really deserve a jail sentence?

22 June 2018

4:25 PM

22 June 2018

4:25 PM

I can think of many people who deserve to be in jail but perhaps not Stanislaw Skupien. The homeless Pole was watching the London Marathon in April when he suddenly fancied a go himself. He clambered over a barrier and started running. When 300 yards form the finish, he picked up a race number which had fallen from a competitor’s short and decided to cross the line himself, picking up the finisher’s medal which should really have gone to a man who was on a charity run.

I guess that is technically fraud, but does it really deserve 16 weeks in jail? It is hardly as if being the 3000th finisher – or whatever – in the London marathon is going to land you with a lucrative sponsorship deal. I have seen far worse cheating in the World Cup which hasn’t even been rewarded with a yellow card. And how much is a plastic marathon medal worth anyway? I have a good mind to give the poor guy one of my marathon medals. I don’t think it would fetch much on eBay.

I can only guess that Skupian is the inverse of the Oxford girl who stabbed her boyfriend while high on drugs but was given only a suspended sentence because, as the judge put it, she was too clever to go to jail. Our criminal justice system has decided that Skupian is too feckless not to go to jail.

Meanwhile, the great fight against fraud powers on. Or rather it doesn’t. If Skupian is minded to look for slightly more lucrative forms of dishonesty when he has finished his 16 weeks I recommend a bit of insider trading. It is funny how the share prices of companies have a habit of drifting upwards in the weeks before takeover talks are revealed to be taking place, but how many people have done time for misusing privileged information to fill their boots? It is just the two tipsters on the Mirror, as far as I remember. Ten years ago the global banking system was brought to its knees by practices which were surely dishonest by any reasonable measure, but how many bankers went to jail for that?

What about the gangs who managed to steal £755 million from British bank customers in 2015 – how many of them are inside? The police have all but given up bothering with online crime, if they ever did. Victims are now habitually redirected to an organisation called Action Fraud, whose purpose seems to be to fob us that our reports will be taken seriously, but which is reported to be overlooking any fraud which is not systematic or is worth less than £100,000.   When I reported a £100 fraud all I received was a standardised email thanking me for my report.

Yet somehow, amid all this inaction, our justice system somehow managed to find the time to jail a man for skipping over a barrier and posing as recreational marathon runner. How nice to know there are some crimes serious enough to warrant action.

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