The Bichard Inquiry which was set up after the notorious Soham murders, seems, through the online publication of evidence on its website, to be slightly lifting the veil of secrecy and obscurity employed by the police, legal, health and education bureaucracies with respect to criminal records and so called "soft intelligence", akin somehat to the Hutton Inquiry.
There is interesting evidence from PITO the Police Information Technology Organisation about the PNC (Police National Computer), and the new ViSOR (Violent Offender and Sexual Offender Register) system (which, astonishingly, does not seem to be available to the Probation Service).
There is the worrying results of the Criminal Records Bureau initial audit of the accuracy of data from the PNC .
N.B. this accuarcy audit gives a false impression of how the accurate the transfer of convictions from the court systems into the Police National Computer is. Address information was deliberately excluded as being too difficult to check for errors in the 5000 or so record sample.
Previous audits have hinted at just how bad this data really is e.g. the article in the now defunct Punch magazine: "Police computer puts justice at risk"
This has serious implications for the debate on Biometric ID Cards. If the National ID Register is as bad as the PNC, then there will be at least 3.6 million inaccurate or missing records - how will this help to combat terrorism, illegal immigration etc. as claimed by the Home Office ?
Hopefully the Bichard Inquiry will investigate the inconsistencies in the application of data retention policies by different Police forces with respect to "soft intelligence" covered by the Data Protection Act, despite centrally available guidance and the massive exemptions for the Police etc. which are built into this weakly enforced and over complicated Act.
As has been pointed out by the evidence from PAT, the Professional Association of Teachers, there are many levels of "soft intelligence" and in the rush to close the deficiencies highlighted in the Soham murders case, we should not ruin the lives and careers of innocent teachers, health workers and police officers etc. who regularly have to face rumours, false allegations and libels.
Why should anyone trust the CRISP (Cross Regional Information Sharing Proposal) being run by the crapitised Criminal Records Bureau to share "soft intelligence" accross 12 police forces ?