The Home Secretary David Blunkett made a statement in Parliament about the Bichard Inquiry report, trying to shift the media attention away from the criticism of his own department and therefore of himself personally:
"We are therefore now introducing the first national police intelligence computer system?entitled "Impact". "Impact" will ensure that all forces use the same system to manage and share intelligence information. As an interim measure, we are bringing forward the nationwide introduction of the police local exchange?PLX. It will begin this autumn and be complete by next spring. It will provide an easily searchable index of all those on whom any police force holds information. Sir Michael commends this. "
So what was the point of the National Criminal Intelligence Service ? Why did this never get funded to the extent that it could provide this central clearing house for criminal intelligence ? Who was responsible for the petty empire building and lack of trust and cooperation between the "numpties" and the "elite" agencies ? Obviously the Home Office and the Home Secretary David Blunkett are responsible for this.
"Before the inquiry was established, the Data Protection Act 1998 was criticised as a contributory factor. While it is no doubt complex, it embodies important principles. Sir Michael concludes that the loss of intelligence cannot be blamed on the Act. He does not believe that radical revisions are necessary. It is crucial that rules on managing information are clearly understood. I am therefore introducing, by the end of this year, a statutory code of practice on police information handling. All 43 forces will deal with intelligence information in the same way. This will be backed up by detailed operational guidance. Effective training, management and inspection will ensure that it is fully understood and consistently applied. "
The Data Protection Act does need to be revised and the Office of the Information Commissioner needs to be funded properely, given that, as of next year, it must also deal with the whole issue of the Freedom of Information Act
"The code of practice will link closely to the police national intelligence model. This sets out how forces should collect and handle intelligence. It is already providing a more consistent structure. The code will ensure that all forces are required to make the most effective use of this structure. Those few forces still not operating this model must do so now. "
This statutory Code of Practice could have been introduced years ago, but was not - this is the fault of the Home Office, and the personal responsibility of the Home Secretary David Blunkett.
"But those recommendations apply substantially beyond policing. The report recommends that social services should routinely notify the police when a crime against a child is committed or suspected. Sir Michael concludes that that is not always the case. The social services database needs to hold details of all alleged sexual offenders involved with named children, and should be easily searchable."
Searchable by whom, exactly ? Where are the provisions for independent oversight and the ability to correct mistakes about unproven "soft intelligence" allegations ? Evidence was given to the Bichard Inquiry about the devasting effect of false allegations made about teachers and others e.g. policemen.
The "social services database" does not come under the purview of the Home Office and it will not be regulated by the new Statutory Code of Practice yet it will suffer from exactly the same issues regarding accuracy , data retention and record deletion.
"Sir Michael also calls for stronger, more consistent vetting and a new system for registering those working with children and vulnerable adults.We will therefore urgently consider his recommendation that a register be created to bring together all the relevant information
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held on individuals in a way that is easily accessible. We need to consider how that fits with and enhances the service already provided by the Criminal Records Bureau."
Surely this is exactly what the Criminal Records Bureau was set up to do ? Why does there need to be Yet Another Centralised Government Database which will be out of step with all the others ? Why is the CRB not securely, easily and cheaply searchable e.g. via a public website ?
"We will also need to make the link to proposals for identity cards."
This must be rejected absolutely. Any Compulsory National ID Card and Centralised Identity Register should be just that - and not a "soft intelligence " Dossier holding unproven allegations, or even actual convictions - that is a job for other systems.
Given that the ID Card seems to be planned to last for 5 years before renewal, how can it be updated with new "soft intelligence" allegations ? How can it deal with Children, who are not even planned to be on this system until they are 16 years old ?
Despite the Home Office's obsession with ID cards, they are not a technological fix for complicated social issues, or for crime in general.