Comic steals Home Secretary's ID

Arrest over C4 stunt

Stand-up Bennett Arron was arrested in a dawn raid after stealing the identity of former Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

The Welsh comic spent 12 hours in the cells after obtaining the Minister’s birth certificate and then using that to get a driving licence in his name as part of a documentary for Channel 4.

He faced a High Court trial and, had he been convicted, could have been jailed for up to two years for the deception. However, with the aid of his lawyers, he received only an official caution.

The drama – which happened last August but it is reported here for the first time – occurred after TV producers approached Arron after his 2005 Edinburgh show about his experiences as a victim of identity theft.

That live show, It Wasn’t Me, It Was Bennett Arron, was to have formed the basis of the programme. However Arron told Chortle: ‘I was due to direct and present the programme and perform my show in it. But the remit changed and it became much more about how easy it is to steal someone's identity and the scale of the crime.

‘In the programme, I easily steal the ID of several members of the general public. However, we felt this wasn't dramatic enough, it was decided that I should attempt to steal the identity of a politician to prove my point.

‘And so I stole I managed to obtain the birth certificate and driving licence of Charles Clarke, who was Home Secretary at the time.

‘I wrote to the Home Office, told them what I had done and asked for a meeting with Mr Clarke, but I received no reply.

‘Then at 6:50 one morning, three CID officers came to my house, banging on the door. They arrested me on and I was put in a cell for 12 hours.

‘I was eventually released on police bail and told that I faced up to two years imprisonment. Fortunately, with the help of a top law firm, I was eventually given an official caution.’

His treatment is in stark contrast to his experiences as the victim of identity fraud. ‘Ironically, when my identity was stolen and I tracked down the fraudster myself, nothing was done,’ Arron says.

It’s believed the DVLA have tightened their procedures since the making of the programme, which was made by independent production house IWC,

Transmission has been delayed by legal wranglings, with police fearing it showed too clearly how the crime could be committed, and incase it prejudiced any trial against Arron.

However following a few edits for legal reasons, Channel 4 will now be airing the programme, How To Steal An Identity, at 11pm on May 15.

Meanwhile, Arron is writing a book about his experiences.

Published: 1 May 2007

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