The National Policing Improvement Agency has published a code that governs the use of the Police National Database, a new national intelligence system.
The PND was set up to implement some of the main recommendations of the Bichard inquiry into the murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
The 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.
An enquiry blamed a lack of data sharing, in part, for preventing the employment as a school caretaker of Ian Huntley who was convicted of the so-called Soham murders.
Huntley had been accused of sexual offences before he took the job at the Soham school, but two police forces failed to spot the allegations when he was vetted for the position.
The report by Sir Michael Bichard said, "An IT system capable of allowing police intelligence to be shared nationally is a priority. This recognition has not, however, always been matched by effective action. Nationally, the picture is disappointing. Although the need for a national intelligence IT capability has been recognised for at least a decade, I find that very little progress has been made."
Now a statutory Code of Practice, which has been laid before Parliament today, is designed to ensure the consistent and lawful use of the PND across the Police Service. It is one of a series of measures to guard against misuse of the new system, sitting alongside role-based access controls and individual user security checks.
The PND is aimed at the protection of the public in three main areas:
- children and vulnerable people
- reducing the risk of terrorist activity
- disrupting and preventing major, serious and organised crime.
A report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust said that the Police National Database will hold information on suspects, victims, witnesses, objects, locations and events. Forces will be able to share text, images, files, maps, video and audio.