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Monday, December 27, 2004

A question of public interest

A young man emerges from a nightclub, the worse for drink. He espies a photographer seeking to immortalise the moment on film. He reacts like many young men have done before him and will do after him. He lunges forward, smashes the camera into the photographer's face, splitting his lip and shouts a string of obscenities at him. Naturally, the Police are informed and refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service.

This is precisely the sort of drunken yobbishness that the Government are seeking to clamp down on. Many young men in that same situation would face charges or, at best a caution. Inevitably, they would come away from it with a criminal record. However, because this drunken yob happens to be Prince Harry, it is deemed to be not in the public interest to take the matter any further.

So how exactly do we define "public interest" in this case? Presumably, a good definition would be that Prince Harry is a high profile public figure who is third in line to the throne. He has been born into privilege and wealth. He is articulate and educated and about to join the armed services. A 19 year old from a Council estate in South London on the verge of signing up to the army would not be so fortunate. Even in the twenty first century it seems that different standards apply to different people according to their status and wealth.

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