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Can Baron Black of Crossharbour say he's sorry? Will it matter?

Following this exclusive story from Britain’s Sunday Times, the country’s House of Lords is under scrutiny and legislators are rewriting…

By Megan Stewart , in Making the News: Focus on Canadian journalism , on February 3, 2009 Tags: , , , ,

Following this exclusive story from Britain’s Sunday Times, the country’s House of Lords is under scrutiny and legislators are rewriting the books to oust the members who discredit the Upper House, including Conrad Black.

Conrad Black takes questions from the press during his 2007 fraud trial in Chicago. Photo: Mediabistro.com

Members of the Lords of the House currently sit for life. Even an act of high treason only merits a suspension while the sentence is served–the most serious punishment for breaking the rules is having to say sorry.

Also known as Baron Black of Crossharbour, or Lordy to some, Black is serving his first year of a nearly seven-year sentence in a Florida prison for fraud and obstruction of justice.

The one-time chief executive and president of Holligner International (now the Sun-Times Media Group), a newspaper group that included the National Post, the Jerusalem Post, The Daily Telegraph and the Chigago Sun-Times. For the honourific, prestige and status implicit in the title of baron, Black renounced his Canadian citizenship.

His comeuppance was sweet fodder for the columnists and editorialists who felt Black’s criminal pursuits was an extension of his greed, pretensions and pompous airs.

But his Lordship may be stripped of that precious capital-L, as the Times Online details:

Peers who avoid tax or have criminal convictions – such as Lord Archer and Lord Black – are to be expelled from the House of Lords in the wake of the lords for hire scandal.

The reforms are being drawn up by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, in an attempt to restore the Lords’ battered reputation after last weekend’s revelations in The Sunday Times. He plans to enact the legislation necessary to expel them before the general election, which has to be held by May next year.

Peers who are “non-domiciled” or “non-resident” for tax purposes – there are thought to be at least seven – will lose their seats, as will those who have been convicted of a serious criminal offence.

If this legislation is passed and indeed brings Black a little closer to earth, he will have intrepid investigative journalism to thank. The man that was welcomed as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1990 as a “distinguished Toronto entrepreneur and publisher,” has many loyal and admiring former employees and brought competition to the country’s national newspaper scene, could be lessened in stature because of good reporting and skilled reporters at the Times.

But, if this image didn’t succeed in humbling the Baron, what can?