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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Police to share data 'next year'
Ian Huntley
Huntley worked at a school despite facing a string of allegations
Police forces in England and Wales will begin to share intelligence on eight areas of crime from next year in a key change arising from the Soham inquiry.

Among the cases they will be able to cross-reference will be those involving firearms or the protection of children.

It is an interim measure until a computer system linking all police data held nationally is introduced in 2010.

The estimated cost of the delayed system has doubled to 367m as it was more complicated than first thought.

The changes were recommended by the Bichard Inquiry, set up to investigate how Ian Huntley secured a job as a school caretaker despite a string of sex allegations against him.

He murdered 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in August 2002 while working at Soham Village College in Cambridgeshire.

Huntley had been accused of several sex-related crimes, but Humberside and Cambridge police failed to spot this while vetting him.

'Not quickly enough'

In his conclusion, Sir Michael Bichard said these oversights were "deeply shocking" and called for the introduction of a national IT system for all police forces to share intelligence.

He also said the Home Office should share responsibility for the lack of such a system.

In the Commons, Labour MP Eric Illsley claimed Sir Michael's recommendations were not being implemented quickly enough.

The Barnsley Central MP asked Tony Blair: "Will you reconsider recalling Sir Michael Bichard to allow him to judge progress against his recommendations and to make sure they don't go the same way as the recommendations that came from Dunblane?"

Sir Michael Bichard
Bichard's inquiry investigated forces in Humberside and Cambridgeshire
The prime minister responded by speaking of a "difficult and complicated" process, which required "a lot of changes, not only in police practice but elsewhere".

"We have to ensure that we get the delivery of this programme right," he acknowledged.

Mr Blair said 21 of the 31 measures were now in place but promised to try to "speed up" those still outstanding.

The changes include a code of practice for police forces in England and Wales, along with revisions in guidance to social services and other agencies on informing the police about suspected offenders.

Another outcome has been the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, due to have its second reading in the Commons next Monday.

This introduces a central vetting scheme for people working with children or vulnerable adults.

'Core policing areas'

By the end of 2007, the prime minister said, "data-sharing arrangements, including the sharing of intelligence, will come in" for police forces.

A Home Office spokesman later clarified that Mr Blair was referring to eight "core policing areas", with any force working on a relevant case being able to cross-reference its own information with that of other teams across England and Wales.

These eight areas were child protection, command and control, crime, custody, domestic control, firearms, HOLMES - the major investigation database - and intelligence.

The prime minister said he would do all possible to "speed up" the introduction of the remaining 10 measures and said he would be "perfectly happy" to reconvene the inquiry team in future.

However, he did not think this was necessary at present.



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