The Home Office has announced plans to reform police IT systems in the wake of today’s critical report by the Bichard inquiry into the failures surrounding the murder of schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells.
Sir Michael Bichard said that failures by Humberside Police, which initially blamed The Data Protection act for its failure to retain intelligence reports on murderer Ian Huntley, were “deeply shocking”.
Cambridgeshire constabulary also made serious errors, he added.
Humberside’s chief constable, David Westwood, has been suspended following criticisms by Bichard that he had failed to deal with wide-ranging and systematic failures in the force, including its information management and information systems, the Home Office revealed.
Home secretary David Blunkett said that in response to the enquiry’s recommendations, the Home Office would roll out the UK’s first national police intelligence computer system to ensure that all forces use the same system to share and manage intelligence.
As an interim measure, the government plans to create a “local exchange” containing a searchable index listing the names of individuals with records on police computers by spring 2006.
A statutory code of practice on police information handling, will be produced by the end of the year, to enable all 43 police forces in England and Wales to deal with intelligence information in the same way, said Blunkett.
The Home Office will also “urgently consider” Bichard’s recommendations to make information held on individuals more easily accessible as part of checks made by the Criminal Records Bureau.
The system will be linked into the government's plans for biometric identity cards, he said.
Blunket added that the Bichard report “uncovers serious failures in recording and managing information. These failures include local systems for recording and accessing data. The government accepts Sir Michael’s main recommendations and will act on them immediately”.