A national police intelligence system is needed as a matter of urgency, according to the Bichard Inquiry into the employment in a school of Soham murderer Ian Huntley.
The inquiry's report, published this week, criticises the failure to develop a national system, despite plans dating back as far as 1994. It calls on the Home Office to report by December with clear targets for implementation.
"This is a national priority that goes to the heart of effective and efficient policing," said former top civil servant Sir Michael Bichard, who is leading the inquiry.
"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.
"At the moment no police force has a straightforward way of knowing what intelligence, if any, is held on a particular individual by another force."
Plans for such a system were first mooted in the National Strategy for Police Information Systems programme run by the Police IT Organisation (Pito), but the intelligence module was abandoned in 2000.
"Pito told the inquiry that the failure to deliver an effective national intelligence capability resulted from individual forces failing to agree on, and commit to, what was needed," stated Bichard.
In contrast, a national system will be fully operational in Scotland by the end of the year. It cost around £11m and took about four years to deliver, according to the report.
Pito is asking for £30m in the forthcoming Whitehall budget round to fund the 'Impact' programme to store and share data centrally.
"Pito recognises that a national intelligence sharing capability is a priority for the police service," said Pito chief executive Phillip Webb.
"While the Police National Computer [PNC] provides a national hub for information on issues like criminal records, there is considerable intelligence held by individual forces that must be available nationally.
"Achieving intelligence sharing on this scale will not be easy and will require the collective commitment of the police service and other partners."
Bichard also called for a review of police IT purchasing practices, and increased investment in the existing PNC to ensure its medium and long-term future.
"Police procurement should, in my view, be reviewed to assess whether the processes currently used adequately support the effective delivery of national solutions to national problems," he said.
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