Fri | Sep 24, 2021

Don’t fingerprint preteens for NIDS, children’s advocate urges

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2021 | 12:23 AM
Diahann Gordon Harrison
Diahann Gordon Harrison

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has recommended that children 12 years and under should not be fingerprinted for enrolment in the National Identification System (NIDS).

Making her submission to a joint select committee reviewing the National Identification and Registration Act, 2020, in a virtual sitting held on Tuesday, the children’s advocate said the fingerprinting of children should accord with existing legislation.

“My own view is that perhaps for coordination and some amount of systematic uniformity. we could consider that the minimum be 12 years, having it in line with the Finger Prints Act,” Gordon Harrison said.

The children’s advocate quizzed the committee and members of the NIDS team on how the legislation addresses the issue of enrolment of minors.

Where the application for enrolment was done in relation to a minor, Gordon Harrison wanted to know if the NIDS legislation purport to fingerprint all minors from zero to 18 years?

Responding to this question, Janel Williams, a member of the NIDS legal team, said that age was not stated in the bill, noting that the issue would be detailed in regulations.

The children’s advocate also queried whether there would be a minimum age of the child that would guide those who were to be fingerprinted?

Williams revealed that it was intended that the fingerprinting of children would begin at the age of six.

“Physical changes are anticipated and accommodated by limiting the period of validity of the national identification cards for minors to five years,” she added.

Gordon Harrison also wanted to know what would inform a minimum age, if established in the NIDS legislation. Williams said that the determination of the minimum age of six was based on an examination of the standards and best practices worldwide, as well as the accuracy of the print available from existing technology.

And in another submission from a coalition of 13 organisations, a controversial issue was raised and a question put to the committee and NIDS team for a response.

Matthew McNaughton, principal of SlashRoots Foundation, cited a hypothetical situation where a person moves to Jamaica to work with an international organisation. The individual’s partner, who is of the same sex, also accompanies her and both persons apply to register for NIDS cards as individuals ordinarily resident in Jamaica.

According to McNaughton, the NIDS bill made two things possible in this scenario: Both persons could enrol and list each other as their spouses or write that they are single and, therefore, mislead the National Identification and Registration Authority, thereby committing an offence.

“I think what we are trying to understand in a scenario such as this is, what should the couple do, for example, in a case where they got married in another jurisdiction and they are now enrolling and they have to indicate this information?” McNaughton queried.

The committee is expected to respond to this query at its next sitting.