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Police chiefs get FOI spirit

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Time to check down the back of the sofa for the police ICT strategy. First the Home Office said it didn't have the plans. That was after the home secretary announced them. Now police chiefs can't find them either - and after they said they had them.

Lord Wasserman, the strategy's architect, must have been on some other planet when he concocted it. And the home secretary must have been making it up as she went along when she announced the plans to the summer conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers in July.

Police chiefs meanwhile appear clueless. ACPO had a look for Wasserman's strategy under the Freedom of Information Act, even though the association is still waiting officially to be brought under FOI powers. It would do this "in the spirit of the legislation", it told Computer Weekly.

It really got into the spirit of the Act. It fobbed us off.

Computer Weekly asked for a copy of the letter by which Lord Wasserman's proposals where communicated to ACPO. Their publication is nine months overdue but that hasn't stopped Wasserman discussing them at industry conferences and home secretary Theresa May making policy announcements from them.

Ailsa Beaton, Metropolitan Police IT director, told police chiefs at an ACPO Cabinet meeting in May that she would put a letter from Wasserman about it on the ACPO intranet.

"Miss Beaton advised Members that Lord Gordon Wasserman's letter regarding the future of
police IT had been published on the ACPO intranet," said the meeting minutes.

In July ACPO said, after consulting officials, that it would not release the document. Now it says it is changing the official record because the letter doesn't exist at all.

"The minutes of the ACPO Cabinet are incorrect and as such ACPO are not in receipt of any such letter. We are in the process of having the minutes changed to reflect this," ACPO said in answer to Computer Weekly's request for the document under FOI.

But there was a letter about Wasserman's ICT strategy.

Speaking last month, ACPO press office said the letter to which Beaton referred did exist, it just wasn't written by Wasserman. It was written about Wasserman, or his ICT strategy.

Jim Barker McCardle, Essex police chief and former senior responsible owner for the Police National Database, wrote the letter. He wrote the letter on behalf of Wasserman, said an NPIA spokeswoman.

McCardle happens to be one of two people on the NPIA board with responsibility for the future of police ICT, the brief being led by Wasserman. The ACPO lead on the same brief is Beaton herself. Beaton, recently outed in Private Eye as a former partner of PA Consulting, is being appointed with Wasserman to the management board of the NPIA once it's privatized.

Both the Home Office and ACPO have refused now to release Wasserman's advice, both claiming in one way or another it didn't exist.

The government meanwhile proceeds with Wasserman's dubious plan to privatize police ICT, unhindered by scrutiny.

That is the spirit of FOI: follow the letter of the law pedantically into any convenient cul-de-sac one can find to justify refusing the release of public information.

Police ICT reforms evade detection

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Home Office plans to make police more accountable will make police ICT less accountable, and at a time when it is becoming in the words of Lord Wasserman, the man behind the reforms, "the key to fighting crime".

Chief police chief Sir Hugh Orde has already made the simplest connection between technology and jobs, warning overspend on databases means underspend on neighbourhood coppers. But Orde, Wasserman and Home Secretary Teresa May have been slow to factor a more important trend into their plans to make police more accountable: more police technology will lead inevitably to more policing by technology. Yet their plans to privatize police technology are designed to deregulate it too.

Their own deliberations have been less accountable than their talk of accountability would suggest. Now at least six months since Wasserman's guidance on police ICT was being distributed to senior officers, the Home Office has refused to release it under Freedom of Information, telling Computer Weekly it didn't exist.

Wasserman, Orde and May have meanwhile been promoting its unpublished recommendations and on 4 July officially announced its core proposal, the privatization of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), the quango currently responsible for police ICT. But there is still no documented justification of what seem like half-baked plans.

Wasserman got busy punting the plans on the policing conference circuit soon after their original publication deadline was missed last December and got settled into his seat in the House of Lords. The revised publication deadline for his recommendations nevertheless slipped again in June. May is said in Home Office records to have been reading initial guidance since December. MPs have meanwhile been denied the opportunity of scrutiny.

Andrew Love, Labour MP for Edmonton, asked in May for Wasserman's terms of reference to be placed in the Commons Library, along with correspondence and minutes of his meetings with the Home Office. Policing minister Nick Herbert fobbed him off. The papers did not appear.

Wasserman himself refused to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee, its chairman Keith Vaz MP complained as the committee considered the government's police reforms on 12 July.

Even if he was willing, Wasserman couldn't answer MPs that day because he was busy promoting his reforms at a conference of criminal policy wonks. He stood in "at very, very short notice" for Herbert, who had taken ill, and defended the plans against critical reports that had appeared that week in these pages.

The Committee had to make do with Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley Police, who shared a podium with Wasserman the day before at yet another conference. She was therefore more familiar with Wasserman's plans than MPs, so filled them in.

The other conference honoured with a briefing on the reforms was a "discreet" City Forum where Wasserman also shared a podium with industry bigwigs Paul Sellick, public services director of Steria, and Bob Quick, chief executive of police consultants Bluelight Global Solutions (of which more later).

Wasserman told the conference how urgent it was that the Home Office carried out his reforms, as trailed by the Home Secretary on 4 July, which involved giving suppliers (like Steria and Bluelight) shareholdings in a privatized NPIA - shareholdings, that is, in the same company that awards their contracts.

Thornton told MPs how Wasserman had told industry how his reforms relied on removing the Home Office remit over police ICT - making it less accountable, you might think. You would be right. Another central plank of the reform was making police ICT unaccountable under the law.

"If it was set up as a company, it could then be exempt from EU rules about procurement, which could make the whole process much speedier because it would be acting like a commercial company. I think that is the proposal," Thornton told MPs.

Police chiefs knew even in February of Wasserman's plans to turn the NPIA into a "GovCo", a private company over which the public sector retained part-ownership. A summary of his proposals has been on the Association of Chief Police Officers' intranet since 8 March. Two days later, Wasserman was promoting them at the Home Office-backed Policing 2011 conference.

All this made the policing minister's confusion before the Home Affairs Select Committee about what was and was not part of the reforms seem conspicuous.

When Vaz pressed Herbert on 28 June over the question of a GovCo, he insisted firmly, "No. There is no plan for a Government-owned company". Just to be sure, he promised that the House of Commons would be the first to hear of the plans when they were at last published.

Six days later, the Home Secretary broke the news at the annual conference of police chiefs that the NPIA would be turned into a GovCo after all. The actual plans remained unpublished.

With all this unaccountable tinkering going on, the police service might be relieved to know Wasserman's on the case. As "Personal Adviser to Prime Minister and Home Secretary", he explains on LinkedIn, he has been charged with making the police service "more accountable to local communities" and "freeing it from interference from bureaucrats in central government".

Even Bill Bratton, the US supercop the Prime Minister wants to lead London's disgraced Metropolitan Police, knew of the plans last December, when Wasserman chaperoned him on what was for the sake of this episode in British policing his Westminster debut.

Bratton ought to have known anyway. Wasserman, who Bratton employed at the New York Police Department in the 1990s, has based his reforms of police procedures on the methodology with which the latter earned his spurs.

That's the CompStat system of data-based policing, in which cops allocate resources to hotspots on crime maps and, crucially, are charged with reducing and not merely detecting crime. That means prevention, and will revive, in conjunction with the liberalised procurement of police technology, concerns about a surveillance society.

Not that there are necessarily concerns with CompStat alone, it being little more than combined with some sort of Six Sigma process improvements. Though it interesting to note even former MET chief Lord Blair punted the Home Affairs Select Committee with the CompStat line on behalf of Bluelight, the police consultancy he now chairs. And when the policing minister introduced Bratton at a his sort-of-debut last December (where the idea of Bratton's leading the MET was floated) Herbert sang the praises of both the US cop and those of his methods Wasserman had incorporated into his unpublished but much promoted police reform plan.

But Wasserman's GovCo, of which we have now learned just a smidgen, is moving against the tide of accountability, knowledge and transparency that has swept in these other reforms. It's hard enough already to get information about police ICT out of the Home Office, even under Freedom of Information or with the power vested in our elected representatives. Imagine how hard it will be to hold the burgeoning progress of police technology to account when it's managed by a private company.

See also: Cabinet Office collars Liberata as NPIA police data deal crosses open source policy

Police ICT privatisation kettles coalition strategy

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If you were to look up the UK's most senior police chief and the home secretary on the Police National Database you should not be surprised to score a hit. Because their recent speeches on police ICT were well suspect.

They were also completely at odds with what Cabinet Office experts say is the way to reform public sector IT.

While the Cabinet Office claims to be trying to "put an end to the oligopoly of large suppliers that monopolise its ICT provision," the Home Office and ACPO are preparing plans that will give the oligopoly more billions and more power to call the shots by privatising the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), the quango that manages police ICT.

If its not a case that the right arm doesn't know what the left arm is doing, has the Cabinet Office has been telling porkies or is the police service being sold a pup?

Home Secretary Theresa May .pngHome secretary Theresa May told last week's summer conference of police chiefs that police ICT was a costly mess, so it should be centralised and privatised. The Cabinet Office says public sector ICT is a costly mess, so it should be distributed and its public management strengthened at the centre.

The Cabinet Office angle is that public sector ICT went to pot in the last 20 years because the government stopped being an "intelligent customer".

And why did it do this? Because in the late 80s it closed the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), the government equivalent of the NPIA, forcing departments to rely on more on Boo Hissstems Integrators. Needless to say they had their own shareholders, not the public at heart and public sector IT became the costly mess it is now.

Even on the face of it, May's story lacks credibility. The NPIA she wants to privatise has already consolidated half of all police ICT contracts. It could be told to get on with the rest if the aim of May's reforms is consolidation, as she claims. The problems May says beset police ICT reside among those contracts not yet managed by the NPIA but by individual forces. Yet she told police chiefs the NPIA was at fault for this mess and justified its privatisation.

Private service

As the home secretary told police chiefs that a "commercial" NPIA would be "more efficient", the Southern Cross OAP empire was collapsing on foundations made of neglected pensioners and desperate staff, demonstrating what private sector efficiency really means for public service.

This is no minor concern when one thinks of ICT assets for which NPIA is responsible, which includes all those things that raised fears of the modern police service becoming a hi-tech Stasi, such as the national intelligence, DNA, fingerprint and number plate databases. Run for profit, assets like these will make surveillance campaigners fears of "function creep" in state snooping seem somewhat understated. A public NPIA might do more than defend the public purse from profiteering suppliers.

Ominous looking data centre.pngOne plan mulled by the privateers is giving these assets to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The police tech "GovCo" would only be allowed to keep anything it builds anew. This is likely to be motivated more by the concerns of potential capital investors than privacy.

Sir Hugh Orde, chief chief at the Association of Police Chiefs (ACPO), made it a financial issue when he took to the conference podium after the home secretary last week.

He gave a few backhanded complements to the NPIA before claiming it had landed forces with an "unexpected" charge of £5.2m for running the Police National Database.

Yet Orde and other police chiefs knew full well about the charges because they set them in conjunction with the Home Office as members of the NPIA board.

Orde nevertheless warned rising police ICT costs had become such a "significant risks to the service" they would force forces to axe Bobbies.

Woe betide anything that threatens the livelihoods of our beloved Bobbies. Orde turned the NPIA into a threat to the police and declared for a radical solution - "a reality check".

And what was this radical solution? He didn't say. But May had already told us: privatise the bastards quick, before they bring the service down.

Lord Wasserman.pngFor a real dose of reality, consider whether a profiteering police agency will charge forces any less for its services than the NPIA already does. And remember the mooted plan involves giving existing databases to the MPS, which will still want forces to pay their bit for their running costs.

You won't get any more reality than that because the advice on which May is acting remains unpublished. It comes from her special advisor Lord Wasserman, who was due to publish his report on the "Future of Police IT" last December. Orde knows about it already. All the public knows so far is what he and May said last week.

Wasserman's advice has been to give private companies a greater say and local forces less, which does not bode well for the Future of Police ICT. The interests of those private companies, like Capgemini, Logica and Northrop Grumman, run contrary to the cause of more efficient and cost effective government IT, as the Cabinet Office has been saying.

May unwittingly clarified this when she gave her reasons for the further consolidation of police ICT. Suppliers were spending in excess of £1m a-time bidding for work at each of the 43 local police forces when they could save money by bidding for just one central contract, she said.

But the only companies that could afford to bid for contracts at all 43 agencies are those same oligopoly suppliers who the Cabinet Office wants to bring down a peg.

May reckons in other words that police force should restructure their ICT for the convenience of for large suppliers.

The government ICT strategy proposes a different solution: Open Source, Open Standards and Software Re-use, a policy that would preserve local autonomy and break the neck-hold the ICT oligopoly has on the public sector.

That strategy's being overlooked - particularly by those privatising police ICT - because it's not in the interest of large ICT suppliers.

Wasserman, May and Orde have yet to present a convincing argument that their unpublished policy acts in any other interest.

Police data hub raises doubts over open source policy

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A landmark software deal that exemplifies key elements of the government's public sector reform programme may have exposed shortcomings in open source policy and plans for an IT-enabled Big Society.

The deal involves the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) selling its Code List Management System (CLMS), a core component of the Police National Database, to Liberata, a private sector ICT supplier.

Public and private police in the Big Society - crop2.pngWhile a Cabinet Office endorsement may turn CLMS into one of the major components of the IT-enabled Big Society, the Liberata deal shows what the government's Localism Bill may mean for local government ICT and the Cabinet Office ICT strategy. This forecast isn't good.

The CLMS data hub deal is itself the hub of this conflation.

It involved NPIA giving its software to Liberata. The ICT supplier promised in return to offer CLMS services free of charge to the public sector. It could otherwise do what it liked and NPIA would get a share of profits.

Yet for all its apparent daring, the deal suffered a terrible lack of ambition. NPIA had raised the issue of open source with Liberata, acknowledging the government's preference for open source software.

NPIA was down with it, but didn't write it into the contract. Liberata's commercial interests were intractably old-world. It would give the public sector the service for free, but not the software code.

The decision may have immense consequences, both for the profit the pair will make, and in the opportunity cost the public sector will take.

The significance lies in what CLMS does and what it may become. It was developed as the heart of a circulatory system between different criminal databases held by the UK's 53 police forces and agencies.

Thus linked, the databases have been combined into a central, Police National Database (PND) to be launched in June. CLMS helped make their data capable of being shared and combined by making sure they all used the same data taxonomies: the different values deemed valid for different fields in a database.


The significance of this feat of data engineering was not lost on the Cabinet Office. The 2004 Bichard Inquiry into the intelligence failures that prevented police thwarting the murderer of Soham school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had blamed poor communication between police databases. It's taken this long to integrate police databases and realise the operation's implications.

Andy Waters, a systems architect who managed the CLMS commercialisation at NPIA, said the agency convinced the Cabinet Office cross-government data sub-committee (called X-Gov Information Domain) the system would benefit the wider public sector.

60 to 70 per cent of government data is held in code lists. Incompatibility is rife. CLMS cut development of the Police National Database by six months to one year and lopped 20 per cent from its cost by ironing out the differences, between say, codes different databases use for gender. It thus already does for the police what the Cabinet Office wants to do for the Big Society: make it interoperable.

So the CIO Council awarded CLMS "exemplar" status. Waters said Cabinet Office wants to roll it out across government as part of its open standards push.

Internet visualisation - crop.png
"We are engaging with Cabinet Office now with a view to more widespread adoption of CLMS," he said. "Our premise is to provide a single one-stop shop for all government data standards. That's the reason why Liberata are making it free to government, to encourage them to adopt it.

"We are in discussions as to what changes [Cabinet Office] require to enable them to mandate its use across government," he said.

Big Society data hub

Cabinet Office wanted CLMS capable of handling post codes, sort codes and other more complex data structures common in the wider public and private sectors.

While Liberata develops the upgrade, NPIA is doing a pre-sales routine with government departments. When CLMS ticks all the boxes, the CIO Council will give it "Champion" status. It would become the de facto Code List Management System for the Big Society.

CLMS would enable a significant part of Cabinet Office's open data and open standards policies. The software makes it possible for anyone to see and use the code lists that populate the PND. The 15,000 crimes that populate the PND's, offences field for example (yes, 15,000 offences), are publicly available; as are the vehicle make/model lists.

Such transparency would fuel public and private innovation. CLMS would then provide mechanisms for homogenising and interfacing between different code lists managed by different public and private bodies, fuelling more innovation. That's how an IT-enabled Big Society is supposed to work.

Even so, the NPIA/Liberata model does not bode well for the Big Society reforms.

The government's Localism Bill intends to give local authorities a general power of competence, which will allow them to operate commercially. Swingeing budget cuts have forced Socitm to advise them not to retain software engineering teams, forcing them to rely entirely on private development for public IT innovations. The combination will cause local authorities to commercialize more public IT systems.

So what?

NPIA effectively gave Liberata a commercial hold over one of the major circulatory systems of the IT-enabled Big Society; a blank cheque to commercialise access to open government standards and data.

CLMS is attractive to Liberata because the private sector will flock to it: to have such close interoperability with government systems will become a commercial necessity. The standards set in the public sector by CLMS may thus become standard throughout private and public Britain.

Liberata.pngWorking from NPIA's conservative estimates, this could net Liberata £62m. NPIA is counting on it. Liberata paid no money for CLMS. NPIA will instead get up to 8 per cent of revenues, which it reckons may amount to £5m over 5 years.

Though NPIA is a quango, its Liberata deal exemplifies what localism will mean for ICT more generally when councils get a general power of competence. Crucially, this demonstrates the impotency of the government's open source policy when faced with the prospect of short term commercial gains.

Open source impotence

Waters said NPIA would prefer the CLMS software to be open source - i.e. for the software code to be freely available, not merely for the service to be free of charge to the public sector.

But NPIA left the decision to Liberata. Since the government favoured open source, it assumed Liberata would. It did not deem it necessary to make open source a contractual obligation.

Open source impotence.pngOpen source seemed like a no-brainer. If the CLMS source code were open, anyone in the public sector could contribute enhancements or add-ons. The more people add things on, said Waters, the more valuable the service becomes. Liberata saw this too.

"Liberata have stated it's their intent to go the open source route," Waters told Computer Weekly. "[But] I can't speak on their behalf. It's their decision. The nature of the concession contract is we give Liberata the commercial freedom to develop the service as they see fit."

But open source is poorly understood by industry. It is therefore being overlooked as an empowering model for government's Big Society and Localism schemes.

This is because the incumbent industry works to the end of profit by whatever means, while open source is on a completely different trajectory: it's the bottom-up model that is meant to define this government's political term.

Industry ignorance

It is not surprising therefore that the £100m Liberata, which was bought by equity investors in January, appears like other software suppliers to have considered the government order that public sector software should be open "where appropriate" and decided without hesitation that its not appropriate.

David Mitton, CLMS business development manager at Liberata, told Computer Weekly he couldn't discuss the open source question because it was still developing its commercial strategy.

"Whether it's open source or not, I'm still working through those details. I don't have a yes or a no. I've not even discussed it," said Mitton.

But Liberata has already done the deal. If it wasn't designed on an open source business model, Liberata is even less likely to discover the model to be appropriate after considering its potential routes to market. What is more apparent in the Liberata example is industry's contempt for open source and the Cabinet Office policy that calls for it to be put first.

"I would say its just guesswork and conjecture at the moment," said Mitton of the open source question. "I'm looking through the government ICT strategy paper, and open source - I've not even seen it in there.

"It's clearly an important part of all software solutions going forward, and it's on my agenda to deal with it this week," he said.

But did Liberata know whether there might be a potential advantage in making the CLMS software open source, and what that advantage might be?

"I'm very busy," said Mitton. "I'm not prepared to debate that with you. I've got no more to add."

The deal looks lucrative for both Liberata and NPIA, especially if it gives Liberata a monopoly over public sector code lists. But it misses the point of the Cabinet Office IT reforms, which are ultimately a realisation that IT suppliers had got used to making too much money because they had too much power.

The bottom-up model, in being more open and collaborative, would naturally mean more modest gains all round. All round.

Papers please!

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The House of Lords has been scrapping Identity Cards this last fortnight. Sort of.

It's not simply a matter of "scrap the ID scheme", as the coalition government promised. It's like one of those magic tricks: the Identity Documents Bill will make ID cards vanish but - tadaah! - the government will still be holding the powers that made them so objectionable in the first place.

This ID scrapping bill won't be enough "to stop the development of a 'papers please' culture in Britain," says No2ID in its brief on the legislation.

That 'papers please culture is the one in which bus conductors have been replaced with revenue inspectors. It's the one in which a jolly whistle and the ting-ting! report of a portable ticket machine have been replaced with the hiss of a walkie talkie and the rustle of bomber jackets as they huddle round.

No2ID takes particular offence at how the ConDem's ID legislation will make it a criminal offence with up to 10 years imprisonment to try and carry off a false ID.

There are no end of reasons why someone might justifiably goof some busybody official into thinking they are someone they are not. They might want to send Transport for London's heavies the the wrong way for a start.

Or they might want to get lashed before they are 18. No2ID reckons the last government lost no time in seconding its terrorist-nabbing ID legislation to the task of bagging underage drinkers.

Yet the strangest thing about the ConDem's ID Doc's Bill are in is its Clause 10. And they are its data sharing powers. The ConDem's will with this bill introduce a wide power for linking disparate data sources to passport records, to keep them for police intelligence and to extend them at the home secretary's discretion. Just the sort of powers they protested about in opposition.

IBM will meanwhile continue operating the stump of the ID system, the National Biometric Identity Service (NBIS) database, as a database of foreigners. Liberty notes rather politely the "divisive and objectionable" fact foreigners will still have to carry ID cards in Britain.

It as though the nation has forgotten the plot to The Great Escape, though it is possibly the most replayed movie in history.

Not that you can compare British officials to Nazi commandants. The ID Docs Bill doesn't give them the power to take you into the woods to have you shot if you have the wrong papers. They will merely have the power to send you to prison for 10 years.

Council CRM to console Osborne's unemployed

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Never before has IT has played such an important role in budgetary affairs as in austerity Britain.

How else could we hope to sack a million workers, ask those few still with jobs to do thrice as much, and then watch everyone very closely for the first signs of dissent? Surely, the CIO's day has truly come!

Our aristocratic Chancellor's Spending Review did initially sound like a load of hogwash. As though we could really expect the private sector to fill the civic void left by £81bn of public spending cuts, and not merely profit as luxuriously as possible on the backs of the chumps it employs on poverty wages to nurse the sores of other chumps it already worked to the bone.

What the IT community made of all this sounded like hokum too. IT, you see, will enable government to improve services even as it cuts costs. It's like saying you can have a fat-free Chocolate E'Claire.

What on earth can they mean? It can't be the G-Cloud. That does promise to miraculously cut costs while improving services. But it's years from reality. It's as far away as the end of the rainbow for all austerity Britain may care.

It's not shared services either. Councils will huddle. But they will combine their services about as energetically as a mating herd of heffalump: one copulation is a probability, a threesome quite a contortion, but an orgy is just wishful thinking. 

Different cladding

All that leaves is what we had already, only with a different colour rosette. The ConDem cuts will put the finishing touches to Labour's e-government and Transformational Government programmes, which will mean more back-office consolidation, outsourcing, job cuts, CRM systems and interactive websites.

That's the vision: lots of unemployed people being quieted very efficiently by the computers that put them out of work.

Those staff left on the public payroll will be given handheld computers that tell them more efficiently what their outsourcing contract stipulates is more than their job's worth. The hand-held computer says no.

And after all the Conservative hoopla about an end to Soviet-era IT projects, the Chancellor promised £2bn for the DWP to create a system of Universal Credit.

Same old story

The more governments change, the more they stay the same. If there were any doubt about this, consider Labour's Interception Modernisation Programme. The coalition government promised it would run no such Big Brother project to retain records of everyone's emails, telephone calls and web activity. They were phony assurances.

Aside from shameless poverty, the dynamic new, new Britain will have one crucial difference. That is the release of tens of thousands of prisoners onto destitute streets: Blair's chickens come home to roost.

Osborne's promised repurposing of police funds from bobbies to technology may ensure there are drones enough to watch they don't land right back in the slammer when they discover what few opportunities there are for honest graft.

If only there were more money to go round. We might have technology and jobs. As members of the Birmingham chapel of the Public and Commercial Services Union remarked on hearing the news that the Queen was having her pay frozen for a year: "It's two years for the rest of us"!

Do new rules on use of Police National Database go far enough?

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The National Policing Improvement Agency today publishes a code which governs the use of a new intelligence system that, in effect, implements some of the main recommendations of the Bichard inquiry into the murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

The new Police National Database is due to be launched later this year. It should, for the first time, allow forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to share, access and search existing local intelligence and operational information on a national basis.

A lack of data sharing was blamed, in part, for preventing the employment as a school caretaker of Ian Huntley who was convicted of the so-called Soham murders.

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