Identification rules leave no room for compassion

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STEVE CANAVAN: The case of the 'kitchen' door is open and shut

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The five-year-old was excited. He hadn’t seen his serviceman father for several months because he was 1,000s of miles away on the front line in Afghanistan, but now a parcel had arrived. It was a birthday present and must have meant the world to the youngster missing his dad.

But because the family were out when somebody from the Royal Mail tried to deliver it to their address, they got a card asking them to collect the parcel from the Delivery Office in Portsmouth.

And when they got to the counter, staff refused to hand over the boy’s present because he didn’t have any ID to prove he was who his mum said he was. So his excitement at getting his present turned into tears and distress.

The Royal Mail says ID must be provided by anybody collecting a parcel, irrespective of their age. Rules are rules. But we say that’s ridiculous.

Whatever happened to common sense? The boy was with his mother, who did have ID. So what was the problem?

The Royal Mail explains that the system of asking for ID before handing over all parcels and packages is ‘in the interests of security, which is of paramount importance.’

So what, exactly, was the security issue in this case? Of course, there was none. The truth is that a very upset little boy had just become the victim of an inflexible policy applied regardless of circumstances.

The above scene was witnessed by Sally Bufton, who was in the queue and also unable to pick up a parcel containing a birthday present of DVDs sent to her son Luke, nine, by his father serving in the Royal Navy.

In her case, she was there alone. Being told you can’t pick up a parcel on behalf of somebody who’s not there, even if that person is your young son, is perhaps a little more understandable.

But the other boy was there with his mum, yet the answer was the same.

We think the Royal Mail should show a bit more compassion. But in a culture where regulations are enforced without exception, we won’t hold our breath.