without trial. One of them Mr. Liversidge, brought a case before the
English courts, which finished in the House of Lords.1
It was a time, in 1940, when England faced the very real threat of a
German invasion. The relevant Minister, the Home Secretary, was given
the power to arrest persons living in this country if he had reasonable
grounds to believe that they were persons of hostile origin or associations.
Despite assurances to the contrary, the Ministerial power appears to have
been exercised fairly indiscriminately. One person amongst the many
arrested was a young law student at Cambridge, whose family had fled
from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The trouble was that Cambridge was in
a sensitive part of the country – near the airfields and the coast. In his
book2, this law student describes how he and many others of German
origin – including his Roman law supervisor – were arrested. He was
interned for six months without trial. He was then released and joined the
Royal Air Force as a pilot. Later he became a successful barrister, a judge
of the Court of Appeal and a distinguished arbitrator. He was, of course,
the late Sir Michael Kerr.
1 The case is Liversidge v. Anderson (1941) 3 AER 338. Mr. Liversidge was arrested in May 1940 and released in early January 1942: for a full account of the case, see Lord Bingham’s lecture, cited at footnote 5.
2 Sir Michael Kerr became an outstanding Judge of the English Court of Appeal and amongst other distinctions, President of the LCIA (and of Queen Mary College): see Kerr, “As far as I remember” (Hart Publishing) 2002. For an account of the family’s move to England, see the children’s book for adults by Sir Michael’s sister, Judith Kerr, entitled “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd (1971).