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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Blunkett says Soham 'a watershed'
David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett gave his reaction in a statement to MPs
A report into police failures to share information about Ian Huntley must mark a "watershed" in forces co-operating, Home Secretary David Blunkett told MPs.

Mr Blunkett said there now needed to be a national system allowing intelligence to be shared more effectively.

He also said Humberside police chief David Westwood would be suspended following criticism in the report.

Tory David Davis said the fact that Huntley got his school caretaker job was a "failure of policing" not of IT.

The shadow home secretary said: "Ian Huntley's record of behaviour should have led police to act."

Failings

Mr Blunkett praised the families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman for their courage in the wake of the murder of the two 10-year-olds.

Forces in England and Wales will share a new computer system dubbed "Impact", he told MPs.

He was speaking in the Commons after Sir Michael Bichard's report highlighted "very serious" police failings.

The home secretary said the police national computer did not currently hold intelligence information and that all 43 forces in England and Wales had operated individual systems for handling such data.

He added: "This should no longer be the case. As Sir Michael puts it we cannot have a situation where, and I quote, 'local accountability will be used to defend ineffective local systems when a national system would be more appropriate'.

'Watershed'

"This report marks a watershed in how police forces and authorities will work together to procure intelligence and information systems needed to do the job.

"No longer can the historic justification of operational independence take precedence over the imperative of being able to track and deal with offenders effectively."

Mr Blunkett backed a suggestion in Sir Michael's report that he reconvene his inquiry in six months time to look at progress.

That was supported by Mr Davis who said such a move should become common practice.

For the Lib Dems Mark Oaten said: "This damning report highlights the fact that while the rest of us are in the age of the internet, the police are stuck in the age of the paperclip."

He added: "The home secretary has some explaining to do over why he abandoned plans for a national police intelligence database in 2000."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Sir Michael Bichard
"I have discovered errors, failures, omissions and shortcomings which are deeply shocking"



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