I have had cause, recently, to need to prove who I am, and more to the point, to prove who I was before I was married, and subsequently divorced. You would not have thought this would be too difficult, but I do not have a marriage certificate. I have sent off for one, at a cost of nine pounds and fifty pence, and it seems that all will be plain sailing.
This, though, raises certain questions as far as I am concerned. The first is why on earth does my decree absolute state that the marriage that took place between Mr Squarepeg and Mrs Squarepeg “be dissolved unless sufficient cause be shown to the Court”? I was not then Mrs Squarepeg – I was but an innocent Miss, which the documentation utterly fails to recognise.
Second, the reason I need this proof is so that I can show that such certificates that I have gained are truly mine. The information that one is required to give to demonstrate proof of identity are nothing that I could not provide for my best friend (whose results are rather better than my own), and in fact, are nothing I could not go and look up at St Catherine’s House, were I so minded.
What makes me particularly cross is that my passport contains no information about my previous name or, in my sister the Tax Inspector’s case, names. Surely a document that is taken as proof of one’s very existence should at the very least contain such information? For those who think that ID cards are the way forward, nothing I have read has indicated that they would show whether or when I was married, and when and how often I have changed my name.
This, it strikes me, is the reason that identity theft is so prevalent these days – because it is so easy. If you know a little about someone, it is scarcely difficult to find out a little more, to the point that you could, if you were so minded, decide to take on their persona. My birth certificate and my passport show the same place of birth, which in my case is a village so small that you would be hard pressed to find five other people hailing from such an address – ( I have just looked it up on Wikipedia – I exaggerate: it seems there are 150 souls living there) but suppose it were London or Birmingham? It would then be simplicity itself to find another to fill in the lacunae in one’s documentation. Add to this the fact that I have a sister who predeceased me, and you can see that I could, with little difficulty, obtain a second passport. I am almost tempted to do so, simply in order to show how very simple it is to hoodwink the authorities, and set up an alternative identity.
Ultimately, I am who I am – but the fact that I should have to go to considerable trouble and expense in order to prove so, in order to obtain information that is available to anyone who cares to make a few enquiries, does not leave me sanguine about the security of the identities of any one of us. Yet with identity comes a whole host of other obligations, responsibilities and rights – and none of them should be taken lightly. It is time that the system was tightened up.