A national database to allow police forces to share locally held information across the country has been launched by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).
The Police National Database (PND) will be used by a total of 53 police bodies in England, Wales, Scotland and the British Transport Police. Up to 15 million people's details are estimated to appear on the database, which will be made available to 12,000 vetted officers.
The PND was recommended by Lord Michael Bichard following the Soham murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. At the time Ian Huntley was registered on several different police databases and investigated eight times, but escaped police detection because the systems were not connected. Previously information had to be shared manually, which could take up to two weeks to access.
Logica was awarded the £75.6m contract in April 2009 for seven years. The first forces connected to the system in November 2010.
"Allows investigators to see the full intelligence picture"
Nick Gargan, NPIA chief executive, said: "We know that child abusers, drug dealers and terrorists don't respect force boundaries, but in many cases forces have been conducting their investigations in isolation, unable to see everything the police service knows about a suspect and unable to make fully informed decisions. The PND pulls together all local knowledge and allows investigators to see the full intelligence picture."
Lord Bichard praised the launch of the PND. "I think one of the problems when you talk about huge IT projects is that people forget the history. They see it as a somewhat cold system improvement. Actually this derived from the death of two young girls and we should never forget the reasons why we are doing this and just how important it is," he said.
9.2 million people on the database
Jennie Cronin, director at the NPIA, said one of the biggest challenges was building the confidence of forces. "Sharing sensitive information can be a big deal as forces may not be sure that it will be treated with respect," she said.
Around 9.2 million people on the database will have criminal records, with others there for more minor offences or because they have been brought to police attention. But the database has been criticised for also including the details of victims of crimes.
Cronin says putting victim information on the system was something that was agonised over. "It was not a decision that was taken lightly. It will be used for victims of serious sexual and violent crimes to give police officers their full history and enable them to provide full protection," she said.
All citizens have the right to make a subject request as to whether there information is on the system.
Logica worked with Northgate Information Solutions, IBM and Capita, Oracle, Microsoft and Huntsman to, build and provide the service management for the PND.