11 FEBRUARY 1938, Page 6


THE liberty of the subject is in a poor way if a man carrying a coat on his arm on his way to his tailor's or presser's is liable to be stopped in the street by police-officers, and required to say whether the coat is his and where he got it. It may be true that Mr. Alfred Ludlow, whom this distasteful experience befell in High Street, Kensington, could have ended the matter at once by giving the desired information to the plain-clothes officers who accosted and subsequently arrested him, but no one except the two officers, against whom a jury last week gave damages of £3oo, will regret that he chose to take the question into court and bring an action for false imprisonment. For a vital principle is involved, which the Lord Chief Justice well stated by asking " if once one ceased in this country to value the liberty of the subject, if once signs were shown of giving way to the abominable doctrine that, because things were done by officials, therefore some immunity must be extended to them, what was to become of liberty ? " The police admittedly are in a difficult position in cases where arrest on suspicion is involved—cases, for example, of loitering with intent—but that is all the more reason for acting with more than ordinary circumspec- tion. In this case the Lord Chief Justice decided, apparently without hesitation, that no reasonable ground for suspicion existed, and no one who reads a report of the case with an impartial mind can think otherwise.

* * * *