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State to fingerprint deportees

Saturday, April 12 2014

THE STATE to move making it compulsory for all deportees to be finger-printed upon entry to this country and for their records to be kept, in addition to more reforms to DNA sample collection, according to legislation unveiled by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Piloting the Miscellaneous Provisions (Administration of Justice) Bill, 2014, Ramlogan said the legislation proposes certain cases where fingerprints and DNA will be taken without consent.

In relation to deportees, Ramlogan said, “A deportee would have to give a sample upon arrival.” He noted currently it was within the discretion of immigration officials to determine, based on an on-the-spot analysis, whether the deportee’s offence fell within the laws of Trinidad and Tobago and this was a cumbersome procedure best suited to legal experts.

“We have removed that to make it very clear and very simple,” Ramlogan said.

Instead, the Attorney General said, a sample will now simply be taken carte blanche.

Clause 9 of the legislation proses an insertion into the Police Service Act which reads: “50C. (1) At all ports of entry into Trinidad and Tobago, a police officer or an immigration officer under the Immigration Act shall take and record for the purpose of identification the fingerprint impression of- (a) a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago without the consent of the citizen, where the citizen has been deported from any place outside of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Compulsory fingerprinting will also take place in situations where there is evidence linking fingerprint impressions at crime scenes to potential persons related to inquiries.

In relation to DNA samples, the definition of such samples is to be clarified; and samples are to be kept far longer, as long as 20 years, because of the possibility of cold cases being solved.

“One ought to tread with extreme caution before you go to destroy it,” Ramlogan said. “The longer the period the State can retain these samples, the better we can tackle crime.”

Of current anti-gang legislation, Ramlogan said because of intelligence gathering by law enforcement authorities, “We are likely to see more arrests in the future under the Anti-Gang Act.” He said the recent provision introducing a “one-strike-and-you-are-out” rule in relation to bail had begun to take effect, saying it had resulted in a “long list of repeat offenders who have matters pending before the court who have been denied bail”. He said the rule was, “one of the most important tools in the fight against crime.” The Attorney General said a new law to re-vamp the practice of plea-bargaining is planned.

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