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Long-Awaited Joint Select Committee Report on Review of Sexual Offences & Other Acts

The long-awaited report from the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection Act was tabled in the Parliament yesterday, December 11, 2018.

The review of the four Acts had its origin in a Private Members Motion tabled by then Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith in 2013. A previous Committee began the review in 2014, but didn’t complete the review before the general elections in 2016. The new Committee began its deliberations in January 2017 and held nineteen meetings. More than thirty submissions were made by entities or individuals.

I have not yet read the report in detail, but am posting it on my blog to provide a copy for those who wish to read and consider it.

JSC report cover

                                                      (Click on link below)

Joint Select Committee Report – Review of Sexual Offences & Other Acts December 2018

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What Info Shall/May Be Included in the #NIDS Database? – What the NIDS Bill Now Says

Whether you support the proposed National Identification System (NIDS) unreservedly or oppose it absolutely or fall somewhere in between, it would be useful to know what information the NIDS Bill passed on November 21, 2017, allows to be collected and stored in the Database. The list of information is set out in the Third Schedule of the Bill and the current Third Schedule is different in a number of respects, when compared with the original Bill tabled in the House on March 21 this year.

In the original Third Schedule, all information to be collected was mandatory. The current Third Schedule distinguishes between information which will be mandatory and shall by included and other information which may be included, some of which will be voluntarily given if the person being registered so chooses. NIDS Third Schedule heading

Part A of the Third Schedule lists the Biographic Information to be collected, all of which is mandatory, except for e-mail address.

NIDS Third Schedule Part A

Part B lists Biometric Information, which is in the categories of Core Biometric Information (B1 & B2), which must be included in the Database, and Other Biometric Information (B3), which may be included in the Database. It has been explained that the information in B2 would only be required when finger prints are not available from the person being registered. The details of this would have to be set out in the Regulations, which are still being drafted. B3(1) refers to distinguishing features, which may be included in the Database, and seems self-explanatory as part of identification, but it is not at all clear under what circumstances it would be expected that an individual’s blood type would be included in the database. Again this points to the fact that many of the details about implementation are to be set out in the Regulations and how important it is that the public has an opportunity to see the Regulations before they are passed.NIDS Third Schedule Part B

Part C lists the Demographic Information that may be included in the Database, but this is entirely optional and the person being registered only needs to give it if they choose to. It is important that this is made clear to people at the time of registration. (Number 9 in Part C is a repreat of Number 5 in Part A(1). It has been explained that this is repeated because the information in Part A wouldn’t be available for statistical purposes, while that in Part C would be, and this information would be useful for such purposes.)NIDS Third Schedule - Part C

Part D lists the other Reference numbers that shall be included in the Database, where they are available. Part E lists the Registrarial History which shall be stored in the Database. This includes information about an idividual’s  National ID cards that have been issued, cancelled or returned. It also includes the information about instances in which an individual’s identity information has been disclosed to a requesting entity. (Clauses 43-45 of the Bill specifically deal with Disclosure of Information.) This is important information that should be permanently stored, as it allows an individual to know to whom their information has been disclosed.NIDS Third Schedule - Part D and Part E

Two other changes since the original Bill was tabled in March 2017 have to do with DNA and with the Minister’s power to amend the Third Schedule.

The initial Bill did not include DNA in the list of biometric information to be collected, but it did not prohibit it. The Bill now specifically excludes the collection of DNA, in the definition of biometric information in Clause 2.

NIDS Bill biometric information definition

The Bill does retain an amendment to the DNA Evidence Act in the Sixth Schedule.NIDS Bill Sixth Schedule - DNA Act

The list of information that shall or may be included in the Database is not set in stone. It can obviously be changed in the future, as is the nature of legislation. However, changes to the Third Schedule cannot be made by the Minister by order, subject to affirmative resolution, as was the case with the initial version of the Bill, but would have to go through the full process for amending the law. This is Clause 57(3).NIDS Bill - Clause 57(3)

It will be important to pay attention to the Regulations which will set out many of the operational details for the implementation of the law. The devil can be in the details at many different levels.

 

 


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350 Words Or Less: Have You Read The #NIDS Bill As Passed?

The National Identification and Registration Bill with the Senate Amendments was passed in Parliament on Tuesday (November 21, 2017), in what turned out to be a controversial process. Whatever you think should happen next, the Bill is now posted on Parliament’s website, if you would like to read it. It has not yet been signed by the Governor General.

The National Identification and Registration Bill

NIDS Bill pic 2

 

 


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350 Words Or Less: The Attorney General Tweets An Opinion Which Invites Explanation

Yesterday, in the wake of the killings of 49 people at a gay bar in Orlando – a horrendous targeted attack on LGBT people – the US Embassy in Jamaica flew its flag at half mast (as instructed by its President) and flew a rainbow flag also. It tweeted the following:

US Emb tweet of flags 13-6-16

Last night, Marlene Malahoo Forte, Jamaica’s Attorney General (AG), posted this tweet, which has become the subject of much discussion online and off:

AG MMF tweet 13-6-16

I do not understand what the AG’s reasoning is for finding the US Embassy’s action “disrespectful of Jamaica’s laws” and am genuinely interested in finding out. I asked last night:

SG tweet to AG  MMF 13-6-16

By way of a hashtag in her tweet, AG Malahoo Forte indicated that she was giving her personal opinion. However, for a number of reasons, I think that the AG should share the thinking behind her opinion.

Malahoo Forte in her public and professional role as AG is the principal legal adviser to the Government of Jamaica. Although she stated that she was expressing a personal opinion, it is an opinion to do with the laws of Jamaica, something she could be asked to advise the Government on. Her publicly expressed view, therefore, would be of valid interest and concern to the Jamaican public, since she was not commenting on something unconnected to her area of public responsibility.

Additionally, I would have had less interest in her publicly expressed personal opinion if she had held some other post, Minister of Finance, for example, or Minister of Transport and Mining. Those portfolios would not be directly related to the topic of Malahoo Forte’s tweet – her opinion that a foreign embassy disrespected the laws of Jamaica.

So, I think it is entirely valid to ask the AG to explain

  • which of Jamaica’s laws specifically she was referring to, and
  • in what way she thought the action was disrespectful of those laws.

I look forward to hearing the AG’s explanation.

Though with developments today, I suspect we will never publicly hear that explanation.

US Embassy response this morning:

US Emb tweet responding to AG MMF - 14-6-16

PM Andrew Holness’ speech this morning

OPM statement re PM speech 14-6-16

The deletion of Malahoo Forte’s original tweet this morning:

AG MMF tweet deleted on 14-6-16

 

 

 

 

 

 


Seeking An Answer From Police Commissioner About Removal of Masks At Political Meetings

I heard the Commissioner of Police, Dr Carl Williams, being interviewed on Nationwide radio yesterday afternoon. During the interview, the Commissioner said that as of now, when people wear masks at political meetings, the masks will be removed by the police.

I would ask the Commissioner to clarify what provision in law the police would be acting on in doing so.

I am genuinely seeking an answer.

The Commissioner and other members of the JCF have been raising the concern about the practice of wearing masks to political meetings. The Commissioner said during the interview that people who wear masks are concealing their identities with the intention of committing criminal acts. (There was some irony to this, given long-standing complaints about the practice of some police of wearing masks during operations, effectively concealing their identities in instances of alleged police abuses.) Cliff Hughes, who was conducting the interview, later raised the possibility that those wearing masks were wanting to attend meetings of both parties without being identified.

jcf cop statement re 7-2-16 shooting at jlp rallyGiven the shooting on Sunday night during the JLP mass meeting in Sam Sharpe Square, in which two people were killed, a number of people were shot and injured and the safety of many more threatened, I can understand the desire of the police to increase security at political events. The Commissioner said that police investigations indicated that the incident wasn’t politically motivated, but was related to conflict between two gangs based in the Flankers community in MoBay. He has said that criminals would use any event as an opportunity to carry out their criminal actions.

It is one thing for the police to express their concerns; to encourage people not to wear masks to political meetings; to ask the political parties to get their supporters to desist from the practice; to seek a meeting with the Political Ombudsman to gain her support in having the practice banned. JCF tweet re masks - 9-2-16It is another thing for the police to actually be removing masks, unless there is a power in law which provides for them to do so.

If the police have a reasonable suspicion that a masked person has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime, then the police can arrest the person and require the removal of the mask as part of the process of establishing the person’s identity. But other than that?

I hope Commissioner Williams will clarify.

(This does lead to a more general discussion about the extent of an individual’s right to cover their face in public, which in some countries has led to heated debate.)