Police National Computer inspections

Part of: Behind the frontline International and specialist agencies

The Police National Computer (PNC) is a national database of information available to all police forces throughout the United Kingdom. Information held on the PNC allows police forces to carry out checks, for example, on a person’s criminal record or vehicle registration. In addition, certain other organisations, referred to as non-police organisations, have access to information held on the PNC.

HMIC had previously audited police forces on their use of the PNC. In 2011, the Government’s Independent Advisor on Criminality Information Management recommended that HMIC’s audit role is extended to cover all PNC users.

Our last inspections were conducted in 2016.

Please note: In July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). Inspections carried out before July 2017 may continue to refer to HMIC.

Use of the Police National Computer

ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) is responsible for criminal record information and improving the links between criminal records and biometric information. ACRO’s principal functions are the provision of police certificates, international child protection certificates and responses to subject access requests that require the collection of information from the PNC.

Although ACRO is technically part of Hampshire Constabulary, it is not currently inspected as part of HMIC’s force inspection regime. Therefore, in early 2016, ACRO’s chief executive officer invited HMIC to inspect ACRO’s use of the PNC.

Terms of reference

The inspection focused on the following three areas of ACRO operations:

  1. ACRO’s compliance with the PNC Code of Connection;
  2. ACRO’s compliance with the PNC Code of Practice; and
  3. the efficiency and effectiveness of ACRO’s use of the PNC.

This inspection did not consider any other areas of ACRO operations.

Non-police use of the Police National Computer

HMIC carried out a limited inspection of the use of PNC by Royal Mail, and used this to inform its first inspection of the use of the PNC, in the following organisations:

  • Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass);
  • Environment Agency;
  • Financial Conduct Authority;
  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority;</li<>
  • NATS (an air traffic control provider);
  • Natural Resources Wales;
  • Post Office;
  • Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and
  • Thurrock Council.

Terms of reference

HMIC’s inspections of non-police organisations which have access to the PNC aim to answer three questions:

  1. Is the level of access specified in the Supply Agreement appropriate for the needs of the non-police organisation?
  2. Does the non-police organisation comply with the Security Operating Procedures? In particular, are the arrangements for training, physical security, and internal audit compliant with the Security Operating Procedures?
  3. Is the non-police organisation making efficient and effective use of the PNC?

Get the reports

These reports were published in May 2016.

Police National Computer Compliance Audits

HMIC carried out Police National Computer compliance audits of police forces between 2003 and 2011.

Police National Computer Audit information, and the reports for each force, can now be found on the National Archives website (external link).