Convicted fraudster Lord Brocket is dismayed by prison life. Should we care, asks Louise Levene
There are few more exhilarating headlines than those which contain the savoury juxtaposition of "Etonian" and "prison". Schadenfreude doesn't come much better than this and few can resist the charms of a story that promises to tell of toffs laid low. Should said Etonians have the effrontery to complain about the nasty time they are having in prison then our pleasure is added to Her Majesty's. Darius Guppy's homesickness while at Ford Open Prison was particularly enjoyable, and the latest Etonian to discover that there are worse places than a British public school is Lord Brocket, whose qualifications as headline-grabbing material were enhanced by those magical phrases "Polo playing" and "friend of Prince Charles".

Lord Brocket, for those of you who have spent the last 12 months inside, was convicted earlier this year of an elaborate conspiracy to defraud insurance companies of pounds 4.5m. His cunning plan was to coerce two of his tenants to help him fake a burglary at his country seat and report the theft of four supposedly rare and valuable Ferraris and Maseratis. A year after the bogus burglary in 1992 his wife Isa, former Vogue model and cocaine addict, was arrested for forging prescriptions and took the opportunity to alert the police to her husband's criminal activities.

The pair have seldom been out of the headlines since. The baroness made quite a splash in the Sunday press. Suddenly, Brocket's arrest and conviction, portrayed by his (legally aided) defence lawyers as "a fall from grace" seemed more a logical development. Lady Brocket, en route to a new life in Puerto Rico, gave us florid accounts of her husband's brutality, his shoplifting, his porn videos and how he had tried to force her to abort their son and heir.

Her husband dismisses her revelations as false memoirs syndrome designed to strengthen her case for custody of the children. His own ability to take custody was rather compromised when he was sent down for five years. After he was packed off to jail his wife said she hoped he'd rot there.

Her wishes seem to be coming true. Although it is popularly imagined that white-collar criminals spend their sentences playing backgammon with the likes of Ernest Saunders in comfortable open prisons, Lord Brocket is still banged up in a nasty old category C prison with the riff-raff. And he doesn't like it.

We know this because Dame Barbara Cartland, "an old family friend" who has corresponded regularly with the 44-year-old peer, and who has written to the Lord Chancellor on his behalf, has decided to share his letters with the press. It seems that, far from receiving special Kind Hearts and Coronets treatment, men with posh voices are bullied mercilessly and menaced with razors. Barbara Cartland believes that the upper classes are singled out for prison brutality.

Brocket's latest bulletin is certainly no episode of Porridge. The 44- year-old ex-guardsman has been picked on by big ugly men with tattoos, and teased by a "paki gang" and stabbed with a razor. All this despite his dogged attempts to help his fellow inmates bridge the large gaps in their education. Although he writes of making himself useful, he has always complained that his sentence was unduly harsh and can't understand why he can't be moved somewhere else. It wouldn't be the first time. He was moved to Littlehey, his current home, as a result of being bullied at Wellingborough.

Prison brutality isn't funny. Not even when it happens to an Etonian. Although we may feel only a modicum of sympathy for an arrogant fraudster desperately trying to manipulate the media, his widely publicised prison experiences highlight the plight of prisoners in general. Brocket may think he's being picked on but the aristocracy don't suffer any more than anyone else - it's just that your average crook's letters home don't seem to make the front page of The Telegraph. The noble lord is fighting with the only weapon left to him - his connectionsn

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