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Case studies

Police National Database

IT is almost unheard of that a major national infrastructure project can be traced back to a single event but the Police National Database is one rare example

Responding to the bichard

In 2002, two children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were murdered by school caretaker Ian Huntley. This led to a public inquiry led by Sir Michael (now Lord) Bichard. His primary recommendation was that all UK police forces should share the intelligence – observations, reports and suspicions – held on their individual systems. If such a system had been in place, Huntley is likely to have been identified as a serious threat to children far sooner.

What the home office needed

Joining up the existing intelligence held by police forces across the UK was a huge task involving around 200 different databases, many of which held information in incompatible ways – it was not simply a matter of connecting the databases but of converting their contents so they were compatible. The system also needed to be totally secure, so no data could fall into unauthorised hands.

The challenge

As an interim measure, an Impact Nominal Index (INI) was set up. This allowed police forces to see that information was held on an individual or event by another force or forces. But retrieving that information meant sending an e-mail or fax requesting details and the reply could take up to two weeks to arrive. The subsequent PND had to make access to the full original intelligence easy and fast.

Our answer

CGI and the Home Office worked with each force and agency to standardise its data, using a specially adapted program that automatically converts disparate methods of recording data into the single method to be used by the PND. This has saved months of manual changes. The same program automatically converted new data into the format used by the PND. The program is helping to address some of the complex IT challenges which PND’s development and delivery has presented. Depending on the characteristics of a force’s databases, it automatically updates the PND, either when new data is input or in daily batches.

A success story

Criminals and terrorists do not respect force boundaries. Before the PND, they were able to take advantage of slow or absent intelligence-sharing between forces. While police were able to make national checks of proven facts, such as convictions, through the Police National Computer (PNC), it was difficult for them to check intelligence nationally. This was highlighted following the conviction of Huntley, who had come to the attention of the police, using two different names, in relation to eight separate sexual offences over a four-year period. Had his employers known this, he would not have been given a job as a school caretaker.

Why CGI?

Few organisations have the ability to manage such a large project involving so many suppliers or can create a completely secure and reliable data system that is used by thousands of people in dozens of separate organisations. Just as we did when we created a similar but smaller system for use in France by the Gendarmerie and Police Nationale, we delivered on time – and under budget. The result is more than an IT system. It is a new weapon in the fight against crime and terrorism, which we will progressively hone and improve.