Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Police to get power to take fingerprints in public spaces, attorney raises alarm

Published:Monday | July 31, 2017 | 8:53 AMJerome Reynolds
Samuels ... fingerprints are a potent source of evidence and should continue to be subjected to judicial control.

Defence attorney, Bert Samuels, is raising alarm at plans by the government to empower the police to collect fingerprints from items and objects in public spaces.

National Security Minister, Robert Montague, has disclosed that the Fingerprint Act will be amended to give effect to the change.

Montague, who was speaking last week at a crime forum at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, said the move is part of the government’s wider crime strategy.

But, Samuels says he’s concerned that the law governing the taking of fingerprints is being expanded beyond judicial control.

Primarily, it is a judge sitting in certain courts such as a Circuit Court, a Traffic Court or a Parish Court, who can order that persons accused of certain offences submit their fingerprints.

Those offences include murder, sex crimes and breaches of the Dangerous Drugs and Firearm acts.

The police are empowered to take fingerprints but in limited circumstances.

The attorney says widening the powers of the police without oversight is a bad move.

Additionally, he says empowering the police to take fingerprints from articles in the public space raises issues of privacy and the risk of misuse and corruption.

 

Attorney at Law, Bert Samuels

Samuels says fingerprints are a potent source of evidence and should continue to be subjected to judicial control.

 

Attorney at Law, Bert Samuels

The Gleaner has sought details on the proposed amendment from the security minister but calls and messages went unanswered and there has been no reply to an email sent to the security ministry's communication unit.