Police forces in England and Wales will need to invest millions of pounds to develop a national intelligence system because a system being rolled out to Scottish police forces is incapable of scaling up to cover the rest of the UK.
The Police IT Organisation (Pito) said this week that the Scottish Intelligence Database, developed over four years at a cost of £11m, could not easily interface with the legacy intelligence databases used by many UK forces.
The need for a single intelligence system was highlighted in last week’s Bichard Report on the failings which led to the murder of two Soham schoolgirls.
"The Scottish intelligence system only serves a limited number of forces. It would be unsuitable to roll that out to a larger number of forces in England and Wales. There are 43 forces with their own legacy systems. To wipe them out and start again would not be feasible," said a Pito spokeswoman.
The apparent incompatibility between the systems means that police forces could have no choice but to wait until at least 2007 for a new intelligence system, dubbed Impact, which will undergo feasibility studies at Pito later this year.
The Home Office plans to invest millions of pounds in developing an interim solution, called PLX, which will alert investigators to other forces that have intelligence on individuals.
The roll-out of the Scottish Intelligence Database across all nine Scottish police forces will be completed by the end of the year. The system, which uses an Oracle database running on Sun Unix servers, stores data at a centre managed by the Scottish Criminal Records Office. Police officers are able to access and update data from a web browser.
Systems supplier ABM, which developed the system, refuted Pito’s claims that it was unsuitable for use in the rest of the UK. It accused the organisation of having a "not invented here" mentality.
John Shaw, managing director of ABM, said that even if the Scottish Intelligence Database was rolled out to England and Wales purely as an interim solution, it would be cheaper and quicker than the Home Office’s current plans.