Clarence Henry Willcock and identity cards

Compulsory identity cards had been re-introduced into the UK during World War II. After the War the Labour government decided, under prompting from the police and secret police, decided they would quite like to continue the scheme.

In December 1950, Harry Willcock, 54 year old dry-cleaning manager was stopped while driving in  London by a police constable  who demanded that he present his identity card at a police station within 48 hours.

Wilcock refused and was prosecuted under the National Registration Act 1939, convicted and fined 10 shillings. During his trial he argued that identity cards had no place in peace time.

In his subsequent appeal the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales upheld the judgement of the lower court,  though in summing up, the Lord Chief Justice showed sympathy for the defence;

"This Act was passed for security purposes, and not for the purposes for which, apparently, it is now sought to be used. To use Acts of Parliament, passed for particular purposes during war, in times when the war is past, except that technically a state of war exists, tends to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers, which is a most undesirable state of affairs.

Further, in this country we have always prided ourselves on the good feeling that exists between the police and the public and such action tends to make the people resentful of the acts of the police and inclines them to obstruct the police instead of to assist them."

Mr. Wilcock then started a campaign against ID cards. When a Conservative government came to power it scrapped ID cards,  against the wishes of the police and the security services.


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