Attorneys say reject creation of national fingerprint database

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Local, regional and international lawyers are telling Antiguans and Barbudans to reject the recently declared government policy of setting up a data bank of fingerprints for broader use, deeming such unjustifiable, “an invasion of privacy” and likely an initiative originating outside the country.
Last week Monday, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas said the policy would require an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 2003, so that during electoral registration, fingerprints could be digitised and archived for use by other state agencies.
Barbados-based attorney, political activist and founder of the Clement Payne Movement, Dr David Commissiong declared,  “Fingerprints are captured for persons who run afoul of the law. I can see no compelling reason as to why that needs to be extended across the entire population.”
United States (US) based attorney Ralph Bowen said the policy was “alarming”, declaring that the government has yet to provide a “sufficient argument or justification” for implementing it, and that it lacks “an overarching reason or rationale”.
Bowen said that while “it would be ideal if the police had access to a databank”, every member of the public had “individual protectable constitutional rights that prevent that level of invasion into our privacy and personal space”.
In the face of arguments put forward by the minister, local attorney Ralph Francis dismissed the notion that a civil Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and a corresponding databank of fingerprints would assist in fighting crime.
“I’ve been trying to think of how many cases that have gone through the court system in the last 30 years where fingerprints were the major issue…. And the majority of persons at the High Court for these things they don’t have voters’ IDs and other IDs with prints … give me another excuse,” he said.
Dr Commissiong, who won a challenge against a proposed airport fingerprinting legislation in Barbados, said the Barbadian legislation allowed “foreign agencies” to access the database that was being proposed there.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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