26-y-o daughter can't get a birth certificate

All Woman

DEAR MRS MACAULAY,
My daughter was born in June 1992 at the Spanish Town Hospital. I registered her at the Registrar General's Department (RGD). I was leaving the country so I asked my aunt to collect the birth certificate for me, but she was unable to. I asked her to send the receipt to me and she sent it to the wrong address and I did not receive it. I came to Jamaica and the RGD office in Mandeville did a search, and they could not find any records. I sent my children to the hospital and they were told that there was no record of my daughter's birth. How can that be possible when I spent three days in the hospital giving birth? I have been trying everything possible for so long and cannot get any help. She is now 26 years old and does not have a birth certificate. I feel like I have failed her. Please can you help me.

Thank you for your letter that raises questions of great concern that your daughter has found herself in such an untenable situation. I must say at once that I cannot understand why, as you said, you registered the birth of your daughter at the RGD. Was this because there was no registrar at the Spanish Town Hospital? Did you report and register the birth at the head office at Spanish Town, or did you do so in Mandeville? Did you report it within 42 days of the birth?

You see, as your daughter was born in a public hospital, the Registration (Birth and Deaths) Act provides that it is the duty of the chief resident officer of the hospital, within 14 days of the birth, to send to the registrar a certificate in the form required giving the particulars that must be registered about the birth, and the registrar must there and then register the birth if it had not been previously registered. You ought to have been asked by the officer to sign the certificate with the particulars you had provided of the birth of your daughter. All these are done in the hospital following the birth. I cannot understand how you spent three days in the hospital and yet the responsible office in such a public hospital did not take the particulars of the birth from you, have you sign the certificate of such particulars, and give you a copy.

The Act also gives power to the registrar when a birth has not been properly registered, at any time after 42 days after the birth, to have you as the parent or the officer in the hospital attend in his or her office within seven days of the receipt of this notice, and give information of the birth to the best of their knowledge and belief and the informant must sign the registration form and counterfoil in the registrar's presence.

Pursuant to the Act, it is also the duty of the registrar to carefully inform himself or herself about every birth which has happened within their district and shall forthwith register any such birth discovered, free of charge. The Act also provides that after three months of the unregistered birth of a child, the registrar may before the expiration of 12 months after the birth send out a written notice requiring the parent or chief resident officer to go personally before the registrar within a specified time and make a solemn declaration before him or her and a Justice of the Peace or some other respectable witness to the declarant's knowledge and belief about the required particulars of the birth, and to sign the registration form and counterfoil, which must also be signed by the registrar and the Justice of the Peace.

The Act also provides that no birth shall be registered after the expiration of 12 months after the date of the birth, unless the Registrar General gives written authority for it to be registered and the fact of this authority must be entered on the registration form and its counterfoil. The Act also states that the Registrar General should not give his or her written authority after any child has attained 10 years of age, unless he or she is satisfied that there were “good and sufficient reasons to account for the delay in registration”.

The Act also provides that every registrar who refuses or without reasonable cause omits to register any birth or the particulars given of a birth which ought to have been registered, and any one who has custody of any register book of births who carelessly loses it, shall be liable to a penalty of paying a certain sum for such failure. This is very serious. I do not even understand how your daughter managed to go through schools and meet requirements of providing proof of birth all her life to the age of 26.

So what can be done? I must say that I am rather surprised that neither you nor your daughters seem to have gone the Registrar General's office in Spanish Town, the head office, to report the position of your daughter and the failure to register her birth which occurred in a public institution.

You say that you have been trying to rectify the position for very long and that you have not received any assistance.

There is a legal officer at the Registrar General's office who you and your daughter can go and speak with and explain in full the obvious failure to record her birth at the Spanish Town Hospital and from your own report, at the RGD. I assure you that this officer would have and will advise and assist you and your daughter. Your daughter should do this (as she is now an adult) and with your support, ask for the Registrar General's authority for her birth to be registered as there are good and sufficient reasons to account for the delay occasioned about the registration of her birth. She must do a solemn statutory declaration giving the particulars of her birth and where and to whom you reported the birth and the circumstances of how your copy of the receipt of your report came to be lost. You must also, as you know the direct facts, be prepared to do a declaration to support your daughter's, if requested.

The legal officer will advise you exactly what you should do the rectify the situation in house at the Registrar General's office for the grant of a written authority of the office holder, as the Act provides. It seems, if what you state is true, that the chief resident officer of the Spanish Town Hospital failed to perform as required by the Act to send to the registrar the prescribed form of the particulars to register your daughter's birth and then that the records were later lost. I believe that you and your daughter have good and sufficient grounds to have the Registrar General act and authorise her late registration.

If this is refused, your daughter with your support can always apply to the Supreme Court under its inherent jurisdiction for an order directed to the Registrar General to grant the written authority and for the late registration of her birth.

You and your daughter should act as I have suggested so she can at last get her birth duly registered and that she can then be able to have a certified copy of her birth certificate.

All best wishes to you both.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

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