Organisations that have access to the Police National Computer (PNC)

Aim of this page

This page explains which organisations can access the Police National Computer (PNC) and how they use the information from it. It also sets out how the PNC is regulated and monitored. It forms part of our sharing of criminal records and criminal record databases sections.

Why is this important?

It is important to know which organisations can access information about your criminal record other than the police. This can be relevant for a range of situations, for example applying for a job or getting a travel visa.

It is also useful to understand what measures are in place to ensure that your information is stored safely and appropriately.

The Police National Computer (PNC)

The PNC is the 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 the regulations.

Further information about the PNC can be found on our criminal record databases page.

Who has access to the PNC

As the PNC has developed and grown, it’s users have grown with it. In 1992, the DVLA and HM Customs and Excise were the only organisations with direct access to the PNC for ‘read only’ purposes. Today, as well as servicing the needs of the 43 police forces in England and Wales and 8 forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland, other smaller police forces and specialist units also have access to the PNC as do a number of non-police agencies.

Requests for access to the PNC are decided upon by the PNC Information Access Panel (PIAP) which is made up of a cross section of expertise from different forces who meet to consider each application for access to the PNC. Any organisation given access will be asked to sign a “Supply Agreement” and a “Code of Connection”.

Organisations with full access to the PNC

Having full access to the PNC allows an organisation to read and update records. However the PNC Administrator in each organisation will set up access levels specific to an individuals role within the organisation.

This includes:

  • All territorial police forces in Great Britain
  • Other police organisations, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man Constabulary, States of Guernsey Police Agency and States of Jersey Police
  • Association of Chief Police Officers
  • British Transport Police
  • Civil Nuclear Constabulary
  • Defence Intelligence Staff
  • GCHQ
  • National Identification Service
  • National Crime Agency
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • The Security Service (M15)
  • The Secret Intelligence Service (M16)

Non-police organisations which have restricted access to the PNC

Most non-police organisations will only have ‘read only’ access to the PNC. This is the part which holds information about criminal records. They will not be able to amend or remove any information, but are granted access in order to perform specific tasks. Some only have access to one database such as the DVLA with it’s access to vehicle information and some only have access to names of people with a criminal record rather than the full record.

A customs officer, for example, has described how they use the PNC:

‘We’re able to use the PNC to gain background information … what we want to know is if someone we suspect – say of drugs smuggling – has a criminal record or if a vehicle has any markers against it. So we have limited access to the PNC database for vehicles and names’.

In prisons, use of the PNC mean that staff are able to assess and categorise newly arrived prisoners.

Other non-police organisations with restricted access to the PNC include:

  • Access Northern Ireland
  • Charity Commission for England and Wales
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • 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 and Barring Service
  • 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 Court Service
  • 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
  • Probation Service
  • Royal Mail
  • Royal Air Force Police
  • Royal Marines Police
  • Royal Military Police
  • Royal Navy Police
  • United Kingdom Border Agency
  • Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

How is use of the PNC regulated?

Strict rules and regulations are imposed on the use of the PNC due to the confidential and often sensitive nature of its contents.

If an organisation wants to apply for access, it must submit a detailed proposal outlining its requirements to the PNC Information Access Panel (PIAP). Users must complete a series of e-learning modules and take at least a five-day training course on how to view data and conduct basic queries. Further training is required in order to gain greater levels of access and carry out more sophisticated queries. A copy of the PNC User Manual can be found here.

There are rules on how information obtained through the PNC can be shared. For example, it cannot be distributed by email.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which inspects police forces in England and Wales monitors the behaviour of all PNC users. It rules on whether an organisation:

  • Has a level of access appropriate to its needs and function
  • Uses the database in a way that complies with strict procedures
  • Makes efficient and effective use of the PNC

How is abuse and misuse of the PNC dealt with?

Since 2011, HMIC has carried out inspections into non-police force usage of the PNC. Resulting reports have revealed occasional instances of misuse and illegal access. For example, some organisations have continued to access the computer after their initial contract has expired.

Unauthorised use or misuse can result in dismissal and a court appearance.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • ACRO – The Criminal Records Office

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on our sharing of criminal records section
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Question – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

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