Fools with time on their hands?

Julie Strange received a letter from the DVLA addressed to her son. As her son, aged 19 years, had died in October 2006 after having been hit by a train, Mrs Strange was quite naturally upset but put the incident down to a clerical error. She rang the DVLA and explained the situation.

More letters arrived from the DVLA addressed to her dead son, scores of them, and they didn’t stop after she sent a copy of the death certificate.

Then came notices from the bailiffs that they wanted to seize the car belonging to Paul Richard Strange, the one he never owned, and eventually, officials sent a summons demanding her son appear before local magistrates.

Mrs Strange appeared for the court hearing and when the usher called for Paul Richard Strange, the court fell silent as she walked forward, arms outstretched, carrying the ashes of her son. She then asked, ‘Do you want to see him?, before breaking down in tears.

The prosecution immediately withdrew the charges.

These sort of things should never happen, of course. Apart from anything else, they can cause untold distress. But they do happen, and quite regularly.

Some years ago, while working for a multi-national media corporation, I had to deal with the consequences of some of these acts of insensitivity, stupidity, carelessness, thoughtlessness or whatever category they fall under.

One distressed woman wrote to the subscriptions department asking them to cancel her husband’s magazine subscription because ‘he died’. Imagine her reaction when, for weeks afterwards, magazines landed on her doorstep addressed to Mr X (he died). Others would be addressed to Mr Y (deceased). Bills and follow-ups sent to Mr Z (he’s dead). The list was endless….

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