Police will be able to get NIDS info through courtThursday, September 23, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
IDENTITY information not available on persons in the course of police investigations will be obtainable through the courts when the National Identification and Registration System (NIDS) takes effect.
The 2017 National Identification and Registration Act, which was struck down by the Constitutional Court in its entirety in April 2019, has been overhauled and is now before the House of Representatives. Justice Minister Delroy Chuck piloted the legislation, which was overhauled by a joint select committee after being withdrawn following the court decision.The Opposition People's National Party had mounted a constitutional challenge to aspects of the 2017 Bill, which it said infringed on the fundamental rights of Jamaicans.The amended Bill allows the commissioner of police to make an ex parte application to a judge in chambers in the Supreme Court to obtain the identity information of individuals who are enrolled in the system, if that information is deemed necessary for the prevention, detection or investigation of crime or in the interest of national security.However, Chuck noted to the House that the judge must be satisfied that all other investigative methods have been exhausted and that the disclosure of information is in the best interest of justice.
“In recognition of the importance of data protection and privacy, the judge in chambers when granting this order must give directions for the purpose of ensuring the security of the identity information including the restriction of the reproduction, storage and destruction of the identity information,” he stated.
The Bill specifies the duration of time the police are allowed to retain the information, and provides for destruction of the identity information where the individual has been convicted or acquitted, the proceedings are discontinued, or no charge has been brought against the enrolled individual. The police may request an extension to retain the information, but the individual must be a part of the proceedings.Additionally, the Registrar General's Department (RGD) is to be subsumed into the National Identification and Registration Authority, which will assume the administration of the civil registration system in Jamaica.
Chuck described the 38-clause Bill as one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation ever to be submitted to go before the House.He said bringing civil registry under the umbrella of the authority was in keeping with best practices of civil registration and identification. The RGD will therefore cease to exist as an executive agency and an office is to be created within the authority called the Office of the Registrar-General. It will be responsible for births, deaths, adoption of children, and marriages.Also, Jamaicans who opt into the NIDS will retain their taxpayer registration numbers as their unique identifier.He told the sitting that the legislative framework has been strengthened and improved to recognise and protect the right to privacy of enrolled persons, particularly as it relates to the protection of an individual's data/identity information.Chuck, who reiterated that the NIDS is voluntary, said: “This Bill seeks to ensure that, at all times, the authority recognises and observes an individual's right to privacy and that the authority fulfils the obligations under the Data Protection Act,” he said, noting that the authority is obligated to advise applicants of voluntary enrolment and right to cancel at any time.
The legislation also outlines requirements for the registration of persons who are imprisoned or in correctional institutions, as well as minors and persons with mental disorders.Of note, biometric information required for enrolment has been minimised, Chuck said, to only include facial image, fingerprints and a manual signature for persons who are 18 years and older. “Several existing Government-issued functional identification numbers will also be used to facilitate the recognition of a unique identity for an applicant,” he said.
Other provisions include offences relating to accessing the national databases without lawful authority. For knowingly obtaining or possessing the identity information of another person to be used to commit a crime or to aid in the commission of a crime, persons could face three years in prison fined $3 million or both fine and imprisonment.