Letter: Identifiable problems

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a law student, I attended the Divisional Court hearings of Willcock v. Muckle on 25-26 June 1951 (letter, 18 August). Mr Willcock was appealing, by way of case stated, from his conviction for failing to carry his identity card. He argued that the enabling legislation, passed for the war emergency, had lapsed. As an indication of the importance of the case, it was heard by a bench of seven judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goddard. In fact, the appeal failed and judgment was given for the Crown on the basis that the legislation had full force and effect.

However, Mr Willcock had the moral victory, because the court heavily criticised the government for failing to repeal the wartime measure and so subject the citizen to the risk of harassment by the police when the need for such a power had passed. Shortly after, the government announced its intention to repeal.

Those who advocate the reintroduction of identity cards should be aware that a requirement to carry a card necessarily involves a requirement to produce it, and reflect whether the probable distress and anger arising from the exercise of the power to require production is outweighed by the benefits aimed at.

Yours sincerely,