Letter: The end of ID cards

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The Independent Online
Sir: Letters in your columns (17 August) give the credit for ending the wartime identity cards to Winston Churchill and James Chuter- Ede. The real credit belongs to the late Lord Chief Justice Goddard.

He heard (in about 1949) an appeal by a citizen against a conviction and fine imposed by a magistrates' court for failing to show his identity card to a policeman. He upheld the conviction, but substituted an 'absolute discharge' for the fine. In giving judgment he said that an absolute discharge (that is, no penalty at all) was the correct end for any such prosecution in future, for in his view the carrying of identity cards had lost its original (wartime) purpose.

That killed the identity card. Politicians who had not themselves noticed the changed circumstances lined up behind him and the identity card was soon legally abolished. Three cheers for the fuddy-duddy judiciary, so criticised by journalists for being out of touch with common sense and popular sentiment.

Yours sincerely,


Harrow Weald, Middlesex