There’s always been a unique approach to retributive justice in Essex. As exemplified by the case of Witham’s Tony Cremer, the flooring company boss who found his enployee Mark Gilbert writing himself a cheques for £845. He duly frogmarched Gilbert to the police station along the high street with a sign round his neck reading: “THIEF. I stole £845 am on my way to the police station.”
In the original Essex Man piece in the Sunday Telegraph of 1990 Simon Heffer wrote: “He has an unswerving belief in lex talionis [that's an eye for an eye to us plebs]. Were the death penalty brought back he would almost certainly pull the lever himself, had he drunk enough beforehand.
“His heritage and instincts, mean he is, for both empirical and atavistic reasons, breathtakingly right-wing… Ownership, independence, a regard for strength and a contempt for weakness underpin his inarticulate faith in markets: above all he believes in getting things done.”
This week Cremer has been sued by Gilbert for psychological distress and two years loss of earnings, and had to pay him £13,000 in compensation and legal costs in an out of court settlement.
What Cremer did was wrong — everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we've abandoned the stocks these days and in his defence Gilbert claimed he was owed the money in wages — but his £13,000 punishment does seem disproportionate.
While having no idea about Mr Cremer's politics, it does seem that at heart
he is be one of Heffer’s Essex Men who likes “to get things done” . Perhaps the court might have made an allowance for the case happening in Essex?
Cremer has certainly inspired sympathy in the Daily Express, which had the headline “Madness of boss must pay £13,000 to the thief he shamed in the street”, along with a picture of Gilbert being marched to the cop shop.
If nothing else the case proves the enduring accuracy of Simon Heffer’s original piece: If you’re going to nick money then don’t take it from a geezer in Witham.