In the Media

Court system misses key date

PUBLISHED June 8, 2006

Plans for courts to update the Police National Computer are running two years late

Changes to the way the Police National Computer (PNC) is updated will not be completed until 2008, despite calls for this year?s deadline to be a priority.

The Bichard Inquiry into criminal intelligence processes following the Soham murders in 2002 recommended that, if possible, plans to transfer responsibility for updating the PNC from the police to the courts should be accelerated ahead of the 2006 target.

?At worst that deadline must be met,? Sir Michael Bichard wrote in 2004.

But the ?20m business case for the system was only signed off in December. And a report published by the Home Office last week says Magistrates? courts will not link to the PNC before December 2007, and Crown Courts not before 2008.

Currently, the PNC is updated manually by police as they receive case information from the courts.

?There is no real-time conviction data, which is not ideal,? said Rick Naylor, president of the Superintendents? Association.

?Police are disappointed the deadline has not been hit,? he said.

Industry sources are sceptical that even the revised timetable deadlines will be met.

The Magistrates? courts PNC link will be developed as part of the Disc system which is being procured by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) as a replacement for the troubled Libra project. But the Disc timetable has slipped because of wrangling over terms and conditions and will not be signed before the end of the summer.

?It is highly unlikely that next year?s target can be met since Disc has not even been awarded yet,? said an industry source.

The criminal justice sector faces particular problems because of the number of different organisations involved, says Ovum analyst Georgina O?Toole.

?The sector has not been as centrally guided as other areas, such as the NHS, so progress has been much slower,? she said.

The Home Office says it has met 21 of Bichard?s 30 recommendations, and the changes to PNC updating procedure has proved both technically and operationally challenging.

The department?s Criminal Justice IT unit (CJIT) is now working on a detailed analysis of the business change and technology requirements. Once up and running, conviction data will be automatically uploaded to the PNC via CJIT?s central Exchange.