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Missing Persons: Databases

Volume 476: debated on Thursday 22 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 22 February 2008, Official Report, column 1084W, on missing persons, what progress has been made by the Government via the National Policing Improvement Agency’s Missing Persons Bureau in identifying best practice in capturing, recording and sharing data relating to missing persons; how much has been allocated to this initiative for 2008-09; and what the timetable is for completion of a national system for storage and retrieval of data on persons reported missing. (205096)

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) launched the Missing Persons Bureau (MPB) on the 1 April 2008.

The requesting of national data from police forces will be subject to the requirement laid out in the NPIA’s developing strategic assessment work with police forces and stakeholders, which is yet to be finalised and circulated for consultation. The classification of these data will again be dependent on the developing requirement of the strategic assessment.

At present, there is no national requirement for police forces to use electronic management systems or to provide the MPB with their data so that the MPB can incorporate them into their national database of missing persons. The MPB is working to develop a comprehensive set of data on missing persons.

The MPB is using the same electronic case management system as the charity Missing People. Work is in progress by the software manufacturer to enable electronic sharing of data between the MPB and the charity. Work is also in progress to enable electronic data transfer from police forces to the MPB.

Current guidance advises the transfer of information to the MPB within 14 days of a person going missing. Proposed changes to the guidance are likely to advise the transfer of information to the MPB within 24 hours for very high risk; 72 hours for high/medium risk; and seven days for low risk missing people, where this transfer can be done by automatic electronic means.

The MPB’s existing budget has been established to incorporate this element of work, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the Answer of 29th April 2008, Official Report, column 344W, on missing persons: databases, what information, relating to reports of missing persons, police officers are required to enter onto the Police National Computer within 48 hours of such reports being made under the national guidance on the management, recording and investigation of missing persons. (205097)

Guidance on the details that are recorded on the police national computer (PNC) for missing persons are outlined in the ACPO guidance on the recording, management and investigations of missing persons, produced in 2005. The rules for recording information on the PNC are set out in the National Policing Improvement Agency's PNC user manual.

The name and basic descriptive information for the individual should be entered under the ‘wanted/missing’ category to identify that they are missing and should be entered onto the PNC as soon as possible and at least within 48 hours of the person’s disappearance. Basic descriptive details for unidentified persons or bodies should be entered under the ‘wanted/missing’ category as a found report using ‘information’ as the surname. Basic descriptive information encompasses details such as: date of birth, gender, ethnicity, height, build, hair colour, shoe size and so on, where these are known.

The PNC is an operational police database which holds details of those persons currently listed as recorded missing by the police and details of unidentified persons found by the police. As soon as an individual is located or identified, the PNC record is either suitably updated to show the current status or deleted by the police.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 29 April 2008, Official Report, column 344W, on missing persons: databases, which of the police force databases for the management and recording of missing persons data referred to in the answer (a) can and (b) cannot share information electronically in real time with (i) the National Policing Improvement Agency's Missing Persons Bureau and (ii) the Police National Computer. (205098)

None of the police forces' missing persons databases can share information electronically in real time with the Missing Persons Bureau's (MPB) database. In order to determine which of the police forces' missing persons databases can share information electronically in real time with the Police National Computer (PNC), it would be necessary to contact each individual police force.

The PNC is a live system accessible by all police forces 24 hours a day, which enables them to share information relating to missing persons.

The MPB is working together with information technology system providers towards developing a technical solution, so that information on missing persons cases held on police forces' systems can be electronically transferred onto the MPB's database. However, there is no requirement for sharing data in real time as the MPB only currently accepts cases to work on after 14 days, thus negating the need for real time updates.

At present there is no national requirement for police forces to use electronic management systems or for them to share information with national systems.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 29 April 2008, Official Report, column 344W, on missing persons: databases, what recent assessment (a) she has and (b) chief police officers have made of the performance of police forces in England and Wales against the requirement in the national guidance on the management, recording and investigation of missing persons that details of such persons reported to the police should be recorded on the Police National Computer within 48 hours; and what mechanisms are in place to (i) encourage and (ii) audit performance against this requirement. (205164)

[holding answer 12 May 2008]: The mechanisms in place to encourage forces to record data on to the police national computer (PNC) are the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidance on the management, recording and investigation of missing persons in combination with the rules for recording missing and found persons as set out in the National Policing Improvement Agency’s PNC User Manual.

Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary (HMIC) reviewed all of the police forces’ compliance with investigating missing persons, in October 2007. This review focused on the processes and systems that were in place to investigate and supervise missing persons investigations. In this review, out of the 43 police forces, one force was graded as excellent, 21 were graded as good and 21 were graded as fair, meaning that they meet the required standard.

HMIC do not carry out an inspection on missing persons data held within PNC but they do audit forces to ensure that forces have their own audit procedures in place and comply with the rules set out in the PNC manual.

Police forces all have an internal review where they audit the information placed on to PNC, and the missing persons data held on PNC would form part of that.

When HMIC do carry out inspections of forces, they also make sure that they comply with the ACPO Data Protection Audit Manual.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 29 April 2008, Official Report, column 344W, on missing persons: databases, what (a) steps would be required and (b) costs would be incurred for the data on missing persons captured by the Police National Computer to be extracted to provide national figures on missing persons. (205165)

[holding answer 12 May 2008]: The police national computer (PNC) is an operational police database which is not designed to disseminate statistical information of this nature. The PNC does hold details of those persons currently listed as recorded missing by the police, however, as soon as an individual is located, the PNC record is deleted.

The Missing Persons Bureau is looking separately at how best to collate statistics on missing persons.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 29 April 2008, Official Report, column 344W, on missing persons: databases, which of the police force databases for the management and recording of missing persons data referred to in the answer can share information electronically in real time with each other such database listed in the answer. (205172)

The information technology systems used by Dyfed-Powys police and Gwent police are able to share missing persons information with each other.

The 20 police forces that have the community policing and case tracking (COMPACT) computer system all have the facility to export data to each other, should a missing persons investigation move locations.

At present there is no national requirement for police forces to use electronic management systems or for their systems to share information with one another.

The Police National Computer is a live system accessible by all police forces 24 hours a day, which enables them to share information relating to missing persons. The Police National Database (PND), being delivered by the National Policing Improvement Agency-led IMPACT programme, will provide a capability for all police forces to electronically share information from their main local systems with each other. The programme is in the process of asking forces for details of what sort of information from which police force systems they plan to provide to the PND. Deployment of the PND is scheduled to commence in 2010.