New offender identity checks to better protect New Zealanders

  • Amy Adams

Comprehensive reforms are being introduced to strengthen how frontline agencies verify the identity of offenders and share that info across public protection agencies, Justice Minister Amy Adams said today.

The Enhancing Identity Verification and Border Processes Legislation Bill has been introduced to Parliament to improve the safety of New Zealanders by streamlining how agencies work together to establish the identity of offenders and ensure their sentences are properly carried out.

Ms Adams said the reforms form 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. 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,” says Ms Adams.

“We’re acting to keep the public safe from some of our worst offenders through ensuring that high-risk individuals cannot leave New Zealand without permission or hide who they are through the use of multiple aliases.

“The public quite rightly expect the Government to be able to share this sort of information to protect them from harm.

“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.”

“The move towards a single shared record of photos, fingerprints and facial recognition will equip our law and border enforcement agencies with the best tools in identifying offenders and absconders,” says Ms Adams.

“The Bill also includes built-in safeguards against inappropriate sharing by providing clear parameters for the circumstances in which information can be shared.”

Alongside the existing privacy protections outlined in the Privacy Act, these parameters include limiting information that can be shared to identity information and only certain named agencies can share that information in specified circumstances.