Children’s advocate wants special provision for minors in conflict in NIDS Act

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison is calling for specific provisions to be included in the National Identification Registration Act (NIRA) to deal with the enrolment of minors in conflict with the law, into the proposed national identification system.

In her submission at Tuesday’s meeting of the joint select committee which is reviewing the revised Bill, Gordon Harrison said her office is making the recommendation in order to prevent this category of minors from being overlooked.

“The term children in conflict with the law isn’t only a forensic one, but it is an internationally recognised designation to a category of children who we often overlooked,” she told the committee.She pointed to provisions in the Child

Care and Protection Act which specifically says that children who are in conflict with the law are to be awarded special attention due to their heightened vulnerabilities and need for support.

“While the current provision in the NIDS Bill mentions a minor who is ‘in the custody of a facility for the care of children’, it does not incorporate the universally recognised term of ‘children in conflict with the law’.

This ambivalence I fear could likely contribute to differences in interpretation which could inadvertently cause a child who is in a remand facility or a correctional facility (viz a child in conflict with the law) to be potentially excluded from applying for enrolment,” Gordon Harrison stated.

She stressed that the current terminology in the draft NIDS Bill can easily be interpreted as applying to a child who resides in a children’s home or a place of safety based on how it is worded “Note that such a child is distinguishable from a child in conflict with the law.

For me this is a serious issue [and] what further compounds the issue is that that Section 10(5) of the NIDS Bill makes specific reference to an individual who is an inmate of a correctional institution, thereby recognising the need for the inclusion of persons who are deprived of their liberty,” the children’s advocate pointed out.

She said it should be noted that an inmate, as defined within the Corrections Act, does not include a minor, which provides further justification for children in conflict with the law to also be included by having a specific provision inserted.

Gordon Harrison has also recommended that the superintendent or officer in charge of the facility that houses children in conflict with the law should be the appropriate person to make the application for enrolment.

The children’s advocate, like other stakeholders, also emphasised the importance of the Data Protection Act being passed before the NIRA, to lay the foundation for the protection of citizens’ personal; information.

“In keeping with this thrust to focus on the protection of person’s information and the need to secure people’s personal information, there is the need to ensure that prior to the passage of this Bill, the Data Protection Act should be enacted…if this legislation serves as the forerunner to the current NIDS Bill, it will effectively bolster the integrity of the safeguarding systems that have been referenced in the NIDS Bill and will be a critical plank of reassurance for persons, many of whom remain not as excited and enthusiastic about this new regime,” Gordon Harrison said.

— Alphea Saunders


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