Quarter of UK population will be on new police database

The Police National Database, which will be launched by ministers next week, will hold the records up to six million apparently innocent people, including every victim of sexual assault and domestic violence.

All 43 police forces in England and Wales and other law enforcement agencies will be able to access the database, which is intended to help detectives track criminals and their associates.

Civil liberties groups and senior MPs yesterday expressed concern at the scale of the database and the number of people who will be able to access it.

Jennie Cronin, a director at the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA), the body in charge of the database, estimated yesterday that the records of between 10 and 15 million people would be held.

According to official figures a total of 9.2 million people in the UK have criminal records, which means the new database will hold information about up to six million people who have not committed an offence.

Advocates of the database claim that it is the nature of police intelligence that the records of people without convictions would be held. More than 12,000 approved police officers and staff will be able to access the database when it is launched next week.

David Davis, the former Conservative shadow home secretary, said: “Ten to 15 million people seems like an awful lot, but the more concerning thing is that this is extremely dangerous information and we need to be certain that any access to this database is carefully monitored.

“Historically police databases have sometimes been made available to people outside of law enforcement agencies. This cannot be afforded for the PND to work properly.”

Isabella Sankey, the director of policy for the human rights group Liberty, questioned why it was necessary to include victims of crime on the database.

She said: “We regularly see inappropriate and inaccurate disclosures blighting lives and this may only be made worse by centralising sensitive information about vulnerable victims.

“The amount and type of information that is to be uploaded on this database must be reviewed to ensure the police can see the wood for the trees.

“Sharing relevant information between police forces is essential for public safety but large, unwieldy databases can never replace the professional judgment of officers.”

The PND was set up following recommendations from a report into the Soham murders in 2002, when Ian Huntley murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002.

His name had featured in intelligence eight times between 1995 and 1999 in connection with sexual offences, but because they were unproven the allegations were only recorded on a local police database in Humberside.

A report by Lord Bichard recommended that police intelligence be centralised.

Ms Cronin’s comments came in an article she wrote for Police Review magazine. She said: “Each force has individual crime and intelligence databases and systems containing millions of records, none of which ‘talk’ to each other or join up.

“We had to bring all that information together. We estimate that once data load is complete we will have information relating to about 10 to 15 million individuals.

“These are all suspects or those who have criminal connections logged in existing force intelligence databases. So for example, if a force has intelligence that an individual is supplying vehicles to a criminal gang, or hanging around with drug dealers, or is suspected of domestic violence, that would be included.”

She said that victims of sexual assault and domestic violence would have their information added to the database to make it easier for forces to identify repeat victims.

Ms Cronin added: “To share intelligence carries some risks, but choosing not to share poses a far greater risk to public protection and it is not one the service should be prepared to live with any longer.”

A spokesman for the NPIA said that some of the six million people without a criminal record may have committed offences which are too minor to be recorded on the current system.


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