Criminal record databases

Police National Computer (PNC)

Overview

The PNC is a computer system for England and Wales governed by section 27(4) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. It is used to record convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings for any offence punishable by imprisonment and any other offence that is specified within regulations. Since 2013, the PNC has been managed by the Home Office (it was previously the National Policing Improvement Agency) and is used by all police forces in England and Wales.

The PNC went live in 1974, initially storing details of stolen vehicles. Its use and function has evolved over time and in recent years the range of facilities, level of detail and potential value of information stored on the PNC has grown considerably. The system can link into a number of separate databases and can access a range of records such as:

  • Information on persons who have been convicted, cautioned or recently arrested.
  • Details of registered keeper of each motor vehicle.
  • Details of people who have driving licences or are disqualified from holding one.
  • Details of certain types of stolen and recovered property including, animals, firearms, trailers, plant machinery and engines.
  • Details of people on the National Firearms Certificate Holders register.

As of February 2010 there were over 9.7 million nominal records held on the PNC.

What is recorded on the PNC?

Generally, an offence that could result in imprisonment is classed as a recordable offence (i.e. an indictable or triable-either-way offence). There are also some more minor summary offences that are designated as recordable. This additional set of specified offences has grown over time and is now substantial.

Find out more here.

If you are not sure whether your offence is classed as recordable or not, and so are unclear whether it’s held on the PNC, the best thing to do is to apply to your local police force for a police subject access request.

Is information deleted or removed?

This is covered in detail here.

Who has access to the PNC?

Requests for access to PNC are decided upon by the PNC Information Access Panel (PIAP). The members of the panel are the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Association of Police Authorities and the Home Office.

Organisations with full access include all police forces. Other organisations have restricted access. They include HM Court Service, Probation Service, the Criminal Records Bureau, Royal Military Police (names file only), Royal Air Force Police (names file only), Royal Navy Police (names file only) & Royal Marines Police (names file only).

PIAP has defined the following organisations as non-police and has agreed that authorised users within these organisations can have names file only access commensurate with their previously stated and agreed business needs.

Non-police organisations with access to PNC:

  • Access Northern Ireland
  • Charity Commission for England and Wales
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Criminal Records Bureau
  • Defence Vetting Agency
  • Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Department for Transport
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • Disclosure Scotland
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
  • Environment Agency
  • Financial Services Authority
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority
  • G4S
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Highways Agency
  • Her Majesty’s Prison Service
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
  • Home Office
  • Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • States of Jersey Customs and Immigration Service
  • Mersey Tunnels Police
  • Ministry of Justice
  • National Air Traffic Service
  • National Health Service
  • Office for Civil Nuclear Security
  • Office of Fair Trading
  • Royal Mail
  • United Kingdom Border Agency
  • Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

ACRO

ACRO is part of ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers)- it stands for ACPO’s Criminal Records Office. One of it’s functions is to deal with PNC subject access requests on behalf of most police forces. They are also the provider of police certificates.

Local police records

The police store information locally (by police force) which may be disclosed as part of an enhanced check. This includes non-conviction information, and convictions for non-recorded offences (see below for the definition of a recorded offence)

You can get copies of what information the police hold locally by making a police subject access request.

Police National Database (PND)

Summary

The PND holds records on intelligence, crime, custody, domestic abuse and child abuse, and allows users (generally, the police) to search the data records of all UK forces in relation to people, objects, locations and events. It allows the named users to search full data records of all UK forces, covering People, Objects, Locations and Events (POLE):

People – individuals such as offenders, suspects or victims; and the organisations they belong to.
Objects – stolen property or other objects such as vehicle, telephone number, or email address.
Locations – different ways of expressing a ‘place’ such as an address, a building or a physical feature
An Event – a robbery crime report, a custody record, or an intelligence report that links two people. Every Person, Object and Location on PND is linked to an Event.

Managed by the Home Office, it is thought that the PND will be an invaluable tool in preventing serious organised crime and will enable the police to better protect children and vulnerable people and reduce the risk of terrorist activities.

Code of Practice

The Code of Practice (the Code) for the new Police National Database (PND) was laid before Parliament on 17 March 2010 following public consultation and approval by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

The Code takes effect from 31 March 2010 and forms the statutory framework for the lawful use of the PND across police forces and introduce safeguards to prevent misuse.

The PND was introduced following the recommendations of the Bichard Inquiry and allows police forces across the United Kingdom to share information and intelligence instantly on a national level. The Code covers the purpose of the PND, general principles and guides on using the PND.

The purpose of the Code is to promote lawful and consistent use of the PND and the information on it: to ensure that practices are in place to ensure it is effective for policing purposes; that its use is compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and that it is not used in a way which is discriminatory or unfair. Chief Officers are responsible under the Code for developing and implementing procedures and systems to achieve this. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary will monitor compliance with the Code and associated guidance.

Home Office Minister for Identity, Meg Hillier MP, said: “When the PND is delivered later this year it will provide forces with a powerful new tool to fight crime and protect the most vulnerable in society. But it is vital that forces use this new information-sharing capability in a consistent and lawful way and for policing purposes only. The Code of Practice will enshrine these principles across the Police Service.”

The PND’s impact on people with convictions

In practice, the PND simply collates information held locally by various police forces. To find out what is held on the PND, you have to request to see your local records of the relevant police force.

The PND will have a record for everyone who has been arrested and processed through custody, so even if you were convicted of a minor offence that was not recorded on the PNC, it will be held on local records and form part of the PND. This kind of information could be disclosed as part of an enhanced check.

Offenders Index

The Offenders Index is the collection of court conviction records going back to 1963; the Ministry of Justice ceased updating it after 2006.

‘Standard list’ was used to determine whether convictions for certain offences should be recorded on the Offenders Index.

All indictable or trial either way offences are ‘Standard list’ offences. Standard List offences also include some more serious summary offences, including:

  • Assault on a constable
  • Common assault – all categories
  • Brothel keeping
  • Cruelty to or neglect of children
  • Interference with motor vehicle
  • Stealing and unauthorised taking of a conveyance
  • Aggravated vehicle taking – criminal damage of £5,000 or under
  • Indecent exposure
  • Criminal damage, £5,000 or less, and malicious damage
  • Found in enclosed premises, possessing picklocks
  • [Minor] Drugs offences
  • Offences against Immigration Act 1971
  • Other offences (excluding motoring)
  • [Criminal Justice Act 1991 Secs 38 and 65 (sub-classes 66 and 67)
  • Impersonating a police officer (sub-classes 91,92 and 93)
  • Driving etc while having a breath, urine or blood alcohol concentration in excess of the prescribed limit (sub-class 02)
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving whilst disqualified
  • Dangerous driving

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The DBS does not hold a copy of the Police National Computer record of convictions. The system held by the DBS is known as a PNC Extract. The extract contains basic identifying details such as name and date of birth of persons included on the PNC. The extract does not contain any conviction information. The police force both own and maintain all information contained on the PNC.

Court records

The courts use a system called LIBRA to manage their records. They use this to record details of outcomes of cases.