Celebrities Above the Law

Earlier this summer the car-crash that is Lindsay Lohan’s life was hauled from the motorway and sprawled across a US courtroom for the entire world to scrutinise. Following the continual breaches of her parole, a result of her 2007 drink driving case, Li-Lo was frog-marched into the LA magistrates’ court and held at the mercy of the US judicial system. Finally, many a parent sighed, this girl will be taught a lesson. And so, under the glare of the flashing cameras and rolling film – all of which lent an air of Judge Judy to the scene – we watched as Lohan tearfully accepted her 90 day sentence of imprisonment. Fan or no fan, even the most cold-hearted could not have helped but empathise with this waning child star as the camera zoomed in on her inconsolable face.

But there was also a feeling of satisfaction, a ‘justice has been served’ caption which could frame the distraught pictures of this starlet who, after evading court hearings and forking out $100,000 in bail had finally been served her just dessert. Plus, 90 days Lindsay? Ample time to churn out a memoir or two. Yet no sooner had she donned her orange jumpsuit and settled into the all-female detention facility south of LA, she was transported out of there in the dead of night after only serving 13 days of her 3 month sentence. Let out for ‘good behaviour’, the Courts deemed her short stay as suitable punishment, with Li-Lo achieving her personal best, beating her previous incarceration record of 84 minutes. Whilst she still has to honour her parole in rehab (no walk in the park), you can’t help but question whether someone not so famous would have received similar treatment.

Crossing the Atlantic, supermodel Naomi Campbell has recently been embroiled in a blood diamond scandal involving the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor. However unlike Li-Lo’s final breakdown in court, the British press were not treated with a live performance of the proceedings. In fact, the 5 ft 9ins beauty from Streatham refused to give evidence unless extra security measures were taken including the banning of all photos, filming and even sketching throughout the trial. Although Naomi is renowned for her Diva behaviour, you’d think this might be put in check when providing potentially damning evidence to a world leader charged on 11 counts of murder, torture, rape and terrorism. Yet instead the supermodel denied knowing where the ‘dirty little stones’ came from and insisted on hurrying along the hearing saying, ‘I want to get this over and done with. It’s a big inconvenience for me’. This ungracious and uncooperative behaviour not only serves to demonstrate the model’s complete ignorance of the atrocities committed by former Liberian Warlord and President Charles Taylor, the victims of which I am sure are all greatly ‘inconvenienced’; but it also highlights the underlying issue of celebrities being treated as above the law.

Blame the extortionate bail outs, media frenzy or network of nepotistic ties but over the past few decades a two-tiered system of justice has emerged. Ostensibly treated as regular citizens, they somehow manage to wriggle out of serving time and instead are awarded front-page publicity. Perhaps in the case of Kate Moss, they lose a few lucrative advertising contracts along the way but her continually thriving career is testimony to the ‘any publicity’s good publicity’ maxim. Footballers drink-drive, pay a hefty fine and are back on the pitch as fast as their little Lamborghinis will take them. In January of this year, Ashley Cole was laughably granted 21 days to come up with the cash for his £1000 speeding fine, despite probably earning that in the time it took to have the hearing (to which, by the way, he failed to show). There is of course the argument of overcrowded prisons, and community service is often used as an alternative sentence – a way to give back to the people. Yet unsurprisingly you rarely see an aged rock star litter-picking on the side of the M1. Instead celebrities pay their way out through lawyers, PR companies and a heart-warming double page spread in OK! (Cue – ‘Ashley: My side of the story’). At risk of sounding authoritative beyond my years, celebrities face no lasting consequences for the crimes they commit. The celebrities may get momentarily slated for being a poor ‘role-model’, yet what example is our own judicial system setting? We allow these public figures to all too easily slink back to rehab or the comfort of Oprah’s sofa, without ever truly making up for their mistakes.

Since her release, Lohan has promised to dedicate her time to charity work in Malawi and focusing on her ‘work’. No mean feat as her last film ‘I know who killed me’ earned her first Golden Raspberry award for worst actress. Yet how sincere a promise this is remains to be seen and is it really equal to serving time in prison? I highly doubt that any average Joe could trade their prison sentence in for a gap year in Tanzania. Naomi Campbell too has, in light of the media furore surrounding the case, reassessed her philanthropic position, vowing to do all she can for those still suffering from the repercussions of diamond-financed wars. Yet whether Campbell really is guilty of accepting the diamonds or not, by the end of the trial she will most probably emerge battered but relatively unscathed, biography in tow – nothing that a little PR won’t fix.

Daisy Mash

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One Comment
  • David J McCrea
    28 October 2010 at 21:50
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    Excellent article. There is no doubt that celebrities receive special treatment. It’s an infuriating injustice.

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