New Zealand Law Society - Identity check legislation introduced in Parliament

Identity check legislation introduced in Parliament

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Justice Minister Amy Adams has introduced the Enhancing Identity Verification and Border Processes Legislation Bill to Parliament.

The bill is an omnibus bill with the objective of strengthening the ability of agencies within the wider justice community to perform their functions related to law enforcement, including the detention of restricted patients, special patients, special care recipients, and other offenders.

It amends the Privacy Act 1993 by inserting a new Part 10A with the purpose of authorising accessing agencies, when carrying out specified functions, to verify the identity of an individual by accessing identity information held about that individual by a holder agency.

"Holder" agencies and "accessing" agencies are specified in a new Schedule 4A to the Privacy Act. Ms Adams says these provide clear parameters for the circumstances in which information can be shared.

Ms Adams says the bill is part of a wider Government response to the Smith/Traynor inquiry, which called for a step change in the way identity is verified and shared in the justice sector.

"This Bill delivers on that step-change by moving away from name-based records held by individual agencies to a shared, anchor identity based on unalterable information, such as fingerprints and facial recognition," she says. 

"It also gives agencies access to the drivers' licence photo database and birth, death and marriages information. These changes only apply to those offenders and mental health patients subject to the criminal justice system.

"This Bill will authorise justice, identity and border agencies to create a consistent platform to verify identity of offenders and mental health patients subject to the criminal justice system, and share that information in an efficient way. 

"For example, Police will be able to get real-time identity information from Corrections about a dangerous offender who is unaccounted for and Customs will know instantly if an absconder tries to leave New Zealand."

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