Police databases

The National Law Enforcement Data Service

The Home Office is planning a new policing super database. 

By 2020, the Home Office will merge the Police National Computer (PNC) and the Police National Database (PND) to create a new database called the Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS).

Police National Computer (PNC)

The PNC holds a record of anyone who has been arrested, convicted, cautioned, reprimanded or warned about a recordable offence. A recordable offence is any offence punishable by imprisonment of at least one year, plus a number of other minor offences including begging or drunkenness in a public place.

Records relating to over 12 million people are currently held on the PNC, and information about people’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings is stored for 100 years from their date of birth.

Police National Database (PND)

The PND, which was introduced in 2010, is a nation-wide database that includes all of the information on the PNC plus extra information and “intelligence” held by local police forces.

This includes “soft” information such as allegations made against a person that did not result in any arrest being made, and concerns passed on to the police from other public bodies (i.e. schools or social services).

Liberty is deeply concerned about the possibility for mission creep and the misuse of this system, which holds an enormous quantity of deeply personal data.

What are our key concerns?

  • The database will hold photographs of innocent people. Court judgments have said that the retention scheme for custody images needs to be more proportionate – but the government are ignoring this. In the LEDS Privacy Impact Assessment, the Home Office have said that old data – data that should be deleted – will still be transferred over to the new LEDS. A Facial Search facility will able to provide matches using about 12 million images enrolled into the PND gallery. These 12 million images will include people who were released without charge or later cleared.
  • The database will be used for data sharing. We are worried about how LEDS will be used to share information between a range of organisations and that security controls will not be sufficient. Users from other organisations may have access to intrusive levels of data which is excessive and not relevant to their role.
  • The database will be inaccurate. The Home Office have stated that analysing information against data privacy principles before placing it on the database “is not practicable”.
  • Victims’ data will be vulnerable. There are also issues around vulnerability of data on victims and informants, which will be kept on the same database.
  • This super database is open to abuse. The above concerns are only exacerbated by the fact that LEDS is going to be held on a commercially provided cloud and mobile phones. Data analysts will have access to all of the deeply sensitive content of these databases during the switchover period.