back to article Number of cops abusing Police National Computer access on the rise

The number of Metropolitan Police officers investigated for misusing a controversial police database has more than doubled in the past five years, The Register can reveal. Since 2009, a total of 76 officers in London have been investigated for misusing the Police National Computer (PNC), according to figures released under …

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  1. Anomalous Cowshed

    Databases, the modern equivalent of the net curtain

    Police, NSA, GCHQ...It's like there's all these people standing behind net curtains, watching what you are up to and secretly blabbering to each other about it and about what they are going to do about it...anyone who can use a net curtaincomputer can get in on the action.

  2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Honest question: how does this database's so-called "due process" square with the EU "right to be forgotten"? I'll leave the question of "should such a database exist" for other threads, but I do wonder how "unproven or non-essential-to-task personally identifiable information" can be stored indefinitely against someone's will?

    Would there be legal grounds under the current system of interlocking (and often overlapping) jurisdictions to appeal this to the EU human rights courts? It seems to me that the state can make a reasonable case for keeping objectively verifiable information on hand using "national security" as waving flag. Do the "get out of jail free" rules allowing such governmental drag nets really give the UK permission to create a national gossip database and then use it against citizens with no realistic grounds for appeal?

    If so then I would put forth that A) that's some shitty lawmaking and B) civilized countries would probably consider you being registered in a gossip database as grounds for political asylum. Gods know I would.

    I know it's a terribly nerdy, Star Trek thing to say, but...the whole system sounds more than just Orwellian, it's downright Cardassian.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Honest question: how does this database's so-called "due process" square with the EU "right to be forgotten"?"

      It doesn't because the "right to be forgotten" doesn't apply (like so many rules) to the state, and was drafted specifically in relation to consumer interactions with business. AFAIK it hasn't yet been enacted in law, but even so I'll wager it will be like the cookie law - a brief nuisance to everybody, before the world goes back to doing what it was doing in the first place.

      Whilst I'm deeply unhappy with the extent and growth in state snooping, the PNC is a bit of an exception in my eyes. If you genuinely are innocent, and are arrested, then you've got an issue. But many people are arrested with due cause, but for a multitude of reasons aren't prosecuted. In my view that's no reason to "forget". And the passage of time is no reason for dropping people off - a searchable record of allegatons against Jimmy Saville might have made a big difference to the failure to prosecute him.

      I think the main change that is needed is simply a procedure for appealing a PNC entry where a wrongful arrest was made, or an arrest that retrospectively can be seen as without due cause. So get arrested after a pub fight, and you're on the PNC and stay there, even if released without charge. Get arrested because of mistaken identity, appeal the PNC entry, have it deleted.

      1. Evil Auditor
        Stop

        Ledswinger, I feel truly uncomfortable with your view. Not because of you but because they are too many out there like you who make it too easy for the government to snooping around in our privacy and, much more importantly, to return the presumption of innocence and implement a guilty until proven innocent policy.

        So in your view, upon being mistakenly arrested - because police made a mistake - you have to go through the hassle to being removed from that database? And it's not much different with the pub fight arrest. Either it can be proven, in front of a court, that you committed a violation of the public peace (or whatever) and you get your sentence. Or it can't. And in the latter case it doesn't matter whether you engaged in a pub fight but there was no evidence or you were an innocent bystander minding his own pint. That's a very basis of our constitutional state. I'm trying to keep it like that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Evil Auditor

          "So in your view, upon being mistakenly arrested - because police made a mistake - you have to go through the hassle to being removed from that database?"

          Yes. I know that seems wrong, but surely you want the PNC to record the activities of the police as well as criminals? So they should have to record any arrest on the system, regardless of outcome. Now consider data integrity - editing rights should be severely limited, to prevent data being improperly edited by the incompetent or the malicious. So the officer or clerk who enter details of my wrongful arrest should not be able to delete that, merely add to the data (no idea how PNC works in reality). That means we'd need a data controller for the PNC, with an appeal and deletion process. If the local nick are busy arresting you without due cause, can you trust them with record editing rights? And if incorrect arrest records were routinely deleted at the local nick without any process, where's the downside for police officers from making pre-emptive arrests because it suits them?

          Even then, if you were stopped repeatedly by the police, and believed eventually that this was intentional harassment or discrimination, if you've actually had the details expunged, where's your evidence when you start to see this as something more systematic? How would you hold police forces to account if they had a high rate of wrongful arrests, or released too many people without charge who might have been chargeable? What about events like domestic violence, where it is common for the victim to call the police, for the offender to be arrested, but the victim then refuses to press charges. That can build, the situation can worsen, and knowing that there is a history is very useful in trying to react to future instances; It also helps when there's a case conference, for example, that looks at the interests of children at risk of domestic violence. In fact, more widely, it becomes a problem that if you can frighten witnesses enough to avoid giving evidence, not only do you avoid a crmininal record, but you force the police to delete all records. Not very sensible is it?

          There is no good outcome here, I'm afraid, but the idea of simply deleting records where no charges are brought seems to have its own downsides.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Evil Auditor

            " So they should have to record any arrest on the system, regardless of outcome."

            There was a recent public debate about arrested people being given anonymity until charged. One of the points made during the discussion was - that the Police are too often using arrests on extremely flimsy grounds to effect a fishing search of computers, cameras, and phones.

            Previously there were "arrestable offences" criteria. These legal restrictions were removed a few years ago to make anything "arrestable" - as the Police often could not remember the criteria and were getting sued for wrongful arrests.

            These spurious arrests can happen when they are finding no evidence to support an investigation that promised career advancement. So they throw the net wider to cover the suspect's contacts. In the old days that would have been a case of asking people informally to discuss their relationship with the suspect.

            No right-minded judiciary would grant a search warrant for those contacts without some evidence. A spurious arrest for anything - especially the rather vague "conspiracy to commit..." - neatly legalises a fishing search.

            Such an arrest not only stops someone getting a USA fast-track visa - but will almost certainly influence a "tick box" ECRB clearance.

            People who try to complain about such fruitless arrests may find themselves mysteriously pilloried in their local press - or harassed in other anonymous ways.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Evil Auditor

            I've argued against this idea of handling people on the presumption of guilt before, but let me summarise it briefly:

            The choice is between ensuring no innocent person is convicted, which runs the risk of some bad guys getting away who know how to play the system, or just locking up everyone who you don't like and damn the poor fellow who gets caught up in the dragnet.

            Do the police really need more power? Well, no. If they would actually enforce the law instead of always trying to get around it, more convictions would actually stick. But that also means stopping the utter waste of time arresting people for taking public photographs, it means focused investigations based on proof instead of building cases on vapour and then see them thankfully thrown out in court.

            Now, your approach amounts to lazy policing once again. If someone is released, their data MUST be destroyed, otherwise you start with profiling people based on earlier mistakes. Want to screw someone's life? Just accuse him of being a terrorist, and the arrest record will stand forever, even if innocent. Heck, you could play that game with every politician and there wouldn't be one left (hey, it DOES have some merit!).

            Bad, BAD, VERY BAD idea. Yes, I know that we may not catch a terrorist that way. I'll take my chances, thank you, because most of the risks these days are caused by "normal" criminals and idiots with guns, knives and garden implements. I really don't want to add the risk of having my life ruined because someone else started gaming some sort of police dossier, thank you.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @AC 10:51

              "Now, your approach amounts to lazy policing once again. If someone is released, their data MUST be destroyed, otherwise you start with profiling people based on earlier mistakes. Want to screw someone's life? Just accuse him of being a terrorist, ....."

              Your grammar and spelling give you away as a Merkin. In which case I don't think you're in any position to cast aspersions on the record keeping of public services on this side of the Atlantic. But even if I let that pass, you've enthusiastically grabbed the firebrand of liberty, are railing against new police powers.....and sadly that's not relevant here. The debate in this sub-thread is simply that our UK police force record their activity on a computer system, and they don't delete it. No change in that. No new powers. No new infringements on liberty (other than a very low number of known instances of misuse of the system).

              If you're at risk of being falsely labelled a terrorist by anybody, then I think you need to complain about and to your own NSA, rather than worrying about how the UK police manage essentially UK specific data.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @AC 10:51

                Your grammar and spelling give you away as a Merkin

                I hate to point it out to you that you have taken an unproven assumption (equivalent to a perceived crime) and based your comments on that (created an arrest record) without any evidence. That's probably the most amusing way ever to nuke your own arguments, because you are 100% wrong. Me no 'Merkin. Capiche?

                I see where you're coming from, but the problem is that operational data is used to validate assertions not based in fact.

                If you have been arrested, you must therefore be bad and suffer for this the rest of your life. Regardless of the cause - if said agent just had a row with his wife and you took a picture of him on the street (not an offence, but still treated by agents as such) and then didn't immediately complied you'd have an arrest, maybe with some extra whipping, sorry, tasering on top.

                Unless you can show me a way to prevent such data being abused later I rather have the right to have it zapped. Maybe I should have to ask for it - fine - but keeping data where the sheer fact of having an entry with your name is enough to prejudice whoever checks for this, no thanks.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @Ledswinger

                Leds, just because you have a shovel it doesn't mean you have to keep digging. :)

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @AC 10:51

                Ledswinger (13:53)

                > Your grammar and spelling give you away as a Merkin.

                Looks pretty much like UK English to me and not US English. Big clue - "vapour"

            2. david wilson

              Re: @Evil Auditor

              >>"I've argued against this idea of handling people on the presumption of guilt before, but let me summarise it briefly:"

              >>"The choice is between ensuring no innocent person is convicted, which runs the risk of some bad guys getting away who know how to play the system, or just locking up everyone who you don't like and damn the poor fellow who gets caught up in the dragnet."

              It's not a case of making an either/or choice, it's a case of where to set various thresholds, and, if information is to be recorded, to limit access to relevant access.

              >>"If someone is released, their data MUST be destroyed, otherwise you start with profiling people based on earlier mistakes."

              Surely there are arrests which are mistakes, and other arrests which don't lead to charges which are not mistakes/

              >>"I'll take my chances, thank you, because most of the risks these days are caused by "normal" criminals and idiots with guns, knives and garden implements."

              And if someone did stab you, and you were sure you knew who was responsible but between you and the police you didn't have quite enough evidence for them to be charged, you'd retrospectively consider the police arresting them as a mistake?

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                Re: @Evil Auditor

                "And if someone did stab you, and you were sure you knew who was responsible but between you and the police you didn't have quite enough evidence for them to be charged, you'd retrospectively consider the police arresting them as a mistake?"

                Yes.

                Part of living under the rule of law - and living free - is that you risk every day of your life being blown up by a madman, run over by a car, stabbed by someone and many other horrible things. In most cases the perpetrator will be caught. In some cases they won't. This is a risk we take in the name of fundamental liberties and it is a price entirely worth paying..

                This is not a "grey area" issue. There are no "gradations of justice." Every single sentient, sapient life form is possessed of the same fundamental liberties and deserving of the exact same rights and freedoms.. You do not get to curb the freedoms of someone else because you don't like them, their politics, their past, their race, height, weight, gender or because you/the state/your mom/etc suspect them of a crime.

                The man who is suspected of stabbing me has the exact same rights I do and no just society can arrest him without a damned good reason, search him without probable cause and if we are to jail him then the evidence against him must meet certain standards.

                Fortunately, your entire argument is a worthless straw man. If I walked up a police office and said "that man just stabbed me" then that is probably cause to detain him pending arrest. He could then be arrested if little things like "yes, there is a stab wound on you" can be verified. Eye witness testimony is one of the least reliable forms of testimony but our laws still allow for it to be used.

                It is better that 100 evil men go free than that one innocent man be imprisoned. Innocent unless proven guilty is an absolute. There is no wiggle room. There are no circumstances under which it is ethically or morally justifiable for that concept not to apply.

        2. Law
          Alien

          "to return the presumption of innocence and implement a guilty until proven innocent policy."

          But in a true Cardassian court the verdict has already been decided before the trial - the trial itself is merely a spectacle for the masses and a way for the guilty party to show remorse! ;)

          It is better for the people... makes them feel safer knowing justice has been done!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            re: Law.

            You mean, like Nuremburg?

        3. Squander Two

          That evidence against Barry George in full:

          He lived in roughly the same part of London as Jill Dando.

          He was seen outside in that area on the same day she was shot.

          Fibres matching his cheap mass-produced trousers were found outside her house (i.e. some dust was found in the street).

          He was obsessed with Princess Diana.

          Princess Diana looked a bit like Jill Dando.

          And sure, everyone knows he's a weirdo.

          And he was convicted, for fuck's sake.

          Anyone happy for the police to use their unproven or indeed disproven suspicions against us needs to explain why there'll never be another Barry George. I'm not convinced.

          1. david wilson

            Re: That evidence against Barry George in full:

            Not quite in full.

            His 'weirdo' nature involved posing for a picture with a gun which looked similar to the assumed murder weapon, and being caught in the grounds of a royal palace with balaclava, rope and knife, and previous convictions for sexual offences.

            And as well as fibre 'evidence', there was some regarding a claimed piece of gunshot residue, which indeed was one of the major factors in getting a retrial when it was successfully challenged.

            >>"Anyone happy for the police to use their unproven or indeed disproven suspicions against us needs to explain why there'll never be another Barry George."

            The police don't prosecute, the CPS do, and it seems the 'experts' both relied on to some extent either weren't expert enough or weren't unbiased enough.

            The major police errors are arguably around not looking properly at evidence which suggested innocence one they thought they had the right person

            There's also the issue of uncertainty about whether evidence could have been accidentally contaminated and whether there were armed police around when he was arrested.

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        @Ledswinger

        Guilty unless proven innocent, sirrah?

        You are the enemy.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Ledswinger

          You are the enemy.

          Not so much enemy as the utter clueless who the politicians love. I bet this one voted for Tony Blair too.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: @Ledswinger

            "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

            Translation for younger folks: "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing".

            Apathy is as damning as actively seeking to destroy the liberty of others. I will treat it as such.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Trevor Pott

              "Apathy is as damning as actively seeking to destroy the liberty of others. I will treat it as such."

              In addition to your pompous tone, you confuse state snooping and private data retention with operational record keeping. The two are fundamentally different, in a manner that you're evidently not clever enough to understand.

              PNC records aren't just used to police the population, they're used to hold the police to account. They are an essential reference point for IPCC investigations or legal actions against the police, and the absence or records can be as damning as the existence and content. Look at the Hillsborough scandal - admittedly it largely predates the PNC and widespread digital record keeping, but the whole point was that original police record keeping was tampered with to disguise operational incompetence. And you want to have an open access database where the police can change the records?

              1. Squander Two

                Two things, Ledswinger.

                First, you are conflating the deletion of records with the rewriting of history. They are not the same thing. No-one here has suggested that the police ought to be able to change the details of arrest records.

                Secondly, it is perfectly possible to institute a system of records of police activity that enables us to spot where the police are making too many dodgy arrests without that same system being used to smear the names of the people they have wrongly arrested. We could, for instance, require the anonymisation of the victims of wrongful arrests. We also don't need to allow the police access to such records at all, and don't need to use those records to penalise the arrestees. You're being disingenuous here. This whole piece is about how people are having the fact that they were once wrongfully arrested held against them as if it's a criminal record, and you're saying we need to do this in order to police the police.

              2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                Re: @Trevor Pott

                I confuse no such thing. The police are an extension of the state and that database can be and is used against you before you ever get to a court of law. You are arguing for effective extrajudicial findings of guilt (by default, simply by being suspected by a member of the plod) and sentencing (being added to a database that will have you treated differently from someone not in the database). You are advocating allowing members of the state to pass judgement on its citizens without the right to trial or a jury of their peers no matter how you dress it up.

                Under no circumstances should police be keeping records on anyone who is not

                A) Proven guilty with all matters of due process carefully observed

                B) Actively under investigation

                C) Have a formal complaint lodged against them where that complaint is signed by the complainant

                Suspicions, gossip, mistaken arrests and so forth should never be retained. If a police office has a formal complaint to make against an individual then he should have the right to do that and he must sign his name to it. In addition, formal complaints must have an notification and appeals process allowing the individual subject to them to challenge the issue and have the complain removed from their record if they succeed.

                The burden of innocence is on the state, not the individual. If you want to call me "pompous" for seeking to defend our essential liberty you go right ahead. Your pathetic attempt to deflect scrutiny of the utter lunacy of your claims with an a weak ad homenim is not going to hurt my feelings more than the idea that a silver badge holding reader of The Register would not merely exhibit apathy in the face of such actions by an overreaching state but actively defend them.

                You offend me, sir. The names you choose to call me are irrelevant in the face of the callousness of your beliefs.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Ledswinger

            "I bet this one voted for Tony Blair too."

            I think you should read some of my other posts before making presumptious comments like that. But more tellingly, you seem to be in favour of keeping records of what you would have liked to have happened (or not), rather than that which happened. Perhaps you could name this new database design, where "facts" are pleasantly malleable, and cannot be relied upon at any later date?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Trevor Pott

          FFS, read what I wrote. The downvotes suggest that as a bunch of IT professionals there's a surprisingly high number of people who think that a record keeping system only ought to keep a revised version of history. Even regarding the comments by another poster about US visa waiver, so ****ing what? If you're wrongly arrested, deleting a database field on the PNC doesn't alter the fact that you-were-arrested.

          Where did I suggest "guilty until proven innocent", or even imply it? You're typing cr@p. Maybe you think tis a grand idea that the PNC should be locally amended to some new view of the truth, whenver the desk sergeant decides that a particular record "won't be needed in future". As noted before, that has some interesting outcomes for both pre-emptive arrests, and for witness intimidation. I've every sympathy with those wrongly arrested. But that doesn't alter the fact that they have been arrested, and that any records must include that.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge
            Megaphone

            Re: @Trevor Pott

            You certainly implied guilty unless proven innocent the instant you implied that the rare consequence of a criminal "getting away with it" was somehow an acceptable reason for retaining gossip on record with the strength of fact. The whole concept requires throwing out the presumption of innocence.

            Your argument is basically "if someone was arrested there was a damned good reason for it" which is the SAME FUCKING THING as "guilty unless proven innocent." It implies that the state cannot be wrong (how Cardassian of you!) or at least that it is wrong so rarely that the odd innocent caught in the net is worth the cost to society.

            You are wrong.

            It is better than 100 evil men go free then that one innocent man be jailed.

            The fact that you have been arrested makes you guilty of no crime. Suspicion of having committed a crime is not proof of your guilt. The state can be and often is wrong. There is no moral or ethical means by which you can justify retention of records for someone who has been not been convicted of a crime in a court of law.

            You are advocating that suspicion of anything by the state means guilt by default and simultaneously that harming innocents to get the guilty is okay. I will fight against you and people who believe as you toh every ounce of my spirit, every means at my disposal every last ounce of passion and life that I possess. Fuck you sir, you are the fucking enemy.

            1. Vic

              Re: @Trevor Pott

              > Suspicion of having committed a crime is not proof of your guilt.

              And therein lies the problem.

              Being on the PNC, or having been arrested is seen to be a flag that the individual is, somehow, "dodgy". Hence the ineligibility for the US visa waiver programme.

              But that's not what it means at all - it could indeed be evidence of police incompetence.

              Were the PNC records to be interpreted *correctly*, there would be no reason to object to their being kept. But we all know they aren't interpreted correctly, and they never will be.

              Vic.

      3. Annakan
        Alert

        Nothing you EVER did should be forgotten, EVER ?

        Or are you just glad you were not caught ?

        Oh you probably think that you never did any wrong, but it is just a matter of defining wrong ... crossing close to a pedestrian passageway, smoking in THAT place, being ill and vomiting in THAT street (DRUUUNNKK).

        You are a frightening and unfortunately more and more common kind of individual.

        And a true menace to everything that make our democracy something more than a hollow word on toilet paper, oh wait ...

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      @Trevor_Pott

      "Honest question: how does this database's so-called "due process" square with the EU "right to be forgotten"? I'll leave the question of "should such a database exist" for other threads, but I do wonder how "unproven or non-essential-to-task personally identifiable information" can be stored indefinitely against someone's will?"

      Much the same way that number plate recognition data is stored for (IIRC) up to 5 yrs in the UK for no very good reason, other than "Because we can."

      As you might have guessed the Police National Computer (actually PNC2, as they retired the original, Siemens I think, mainframe years ago) runs multiple applications and databases.

      However the UK has a thing called "The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act" which allows that for a lot of crimes after a period (IIRC 8 years) a conviction is "spent" and you don't have to include it on an employment application. That does not include sex crimes and I'm fairly sure murder and armed robbery, but it supports the idea that you have "paid your debt to society" already and persecution over events nearly a decade ago (at least) should not be forgotten in most cases.

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: @Trevor_Pott

        The RoO act does not apply to an enhanced CRB check, or any check under the safeguarding act.

        It also does not apply when applying for any visa.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Trevor_Pott

        There are two databases. The Police National Database (PND) and the Police National Computer (PNC).

        The PNC contains details of all convictions, cautions, charges and arrests that pertain to an individual and these records cannot only be deleted under very extraordinary circumstances or when you are 100.

        The PND contains further information including soft information etc etc. With records held on the PND you can apply to have them removed after 10 clear years of non contact with the police.

        I was arrested just over 10 years ago on suspicion of an offence I was completely innocent of. I was thoroughly investigated and after several months I was informed that no further action would be taken.

        As I now have 10 clear years since the arrest (and 40 clear years prior to the arrest) I can apply to have my records removed from the PND.

        I CANNOT ever have the record of my arrest removed from the PNC. So will find it very hard to visit America or Australia. Applying for any job that requires an eCRB certificate may be problematic as the decision about whether the details of the arrest are released are entirely at the whim of the chief constable.

        Am I happy about this. No I am f***ing not. I am essentially being treated as guilty with no chance or "parole" and there is sod all I can do about.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Honest question: how does this database's so-called "due process" square with the EU "right to be forgotten"?

      I do not know. However, as an anecdote I can tell you about a country in southern Europe in which I used to reside. Once I had the opportunity of checking my own entry in their police database.

      The information it contained was exactly this:

      - Name

      - Date and place of birth

      - Names of both my parents

      - National ID number

      - Last known address

      And that was exactly it, in spite of a number of 'interactions' with police over the years.

      A friend of mine was once convicted of assaulting a police officer. His record was automatically expunged after eight years, according to that country's laws.

      Talking to the police about this, they basically told me they prefer to concentrate on real baddies rather than deal with heaps of useless data from small fry or downright innocent people. They also rely a lot on human intelligence.

  3. Gordon Pryra

    This is a massive percentage of police

    Who seem to be able to use a computer now abusing these systems.

    Every time I need the police to help me, it seems that the ones i talk to have either not got the training to use the system, or just give a blank stare when asked questions.

    Even a simple, "hey can you tell me the date of the time I called you guys to help me when my drunk neighbor came into my property and attacked me" gets the response "sorry cant do that, file a freedom of information so someone who can be arsed looks for you"

    With the amount of data we know they hold on criminals, and now the greater levels of very private information we know they hold on law abiding citizens, this offense should be a minimum jail term of some length.

    The police constantly show themselves to be untrustworthy unless they are dealing with automated offenses like parking fines and speeding. They are, in the main, normal people tarred with the lazy brush (like all civil servants end up being after a few years) they need the fear that their actions will have some consequences beaten into them.

    1. david wilson

      Re: This is a massive percentage of police

      >>"Even a simple, "hey can you tell me the date of the time I called you guys to help me when my drunk neighbor came into my property and attacked me" gets the response "sorry cant do that, file a freedom of information so someone who can be arsed looks for you""

      Presumably even if they were to grant a 'simple' request, they'd have to verify your identity to be sure that you were the person you said you were, and they might feel they need some kind of formal written request to protect themselves from future allegations of unauthorised snooping if someone asks why they were looking up particular records.

      It would also require that the person was confident in making a judgement about whether a particular individual did have a right to know some particular piece of information, something which would seem like a fairly murky area.

      While there might be a few genuine simple requests like your example, it's not hard to imagine slightly less simple ones where people still felt they had 'a right to know'.

    2. Don Jefe
      Meh

      Re: This is a massive percentage of police

      I know it is fiction, but police and agents abuse people databases all the time in crime/murder shows. They'll look up their partners new boyfriend to make sure he's 'OK' or even look up exes to see what they're into. When they get caught by their supervisor they get the 'you know you aren't supposed to do that' speech, accompanied by a knowing smirk. I'd wager that's pretty much how it is in real life too. It's only bad if you're unpopular at the station already...

      1. Squander Two

        It's not just fiction.

        I worked with a student doing work experience a few years back. Her father was a police officer. She mentioned what a pain it was, the way he does background checks on her boyfriends -- "But it's OK, he's a detective, he's allowed to." She believed it was legal, because he told his family it was legal, probably because he thought it ought to be legal even if it wasn't. And the system in place to stop abuse of the system amounts to "Now, promise us you won't abuse the system."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So if the enforcers of the law can't be trusted, why do we feel the security services can be?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      "So if the enforcers of the law can't be trusted, why do we feel the security services can be?"

      Err, who does trust the security services?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Gimp

        "Err, who does trust the security services?"

        Easy.

        Politicians

      2. Potemkine Silver badge

        Intended for MI but works for security services too

        "Well, that’s what military intelligence does: fail. They should just drop the facade and call MI the "Department of ‘Whoops!’" - Gary Brecher, aka. The War Nerd..

    2. Spanners Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      <quote>So if the enforcers of the law can't be trusted, why do we feel the security services can be?</quote>

      I trust the police more than I trust spooks.

      1. MrXavia
        Big Brother

        @Spanners

        I trust our spooks and our police in general, BUT there are bad apples in every bunch..

        What I don't trust is the civil service or the politicians, they are dumb, over payed and have no grip on reality...

        They are the ones that bring in laws that the police themselves disagree with...

        We have too many criminal offences, we need to cut them down to the bare minimum, and anything else should be civil.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Spanners

        >I trust the police more than I trust spooks.

        History suggest otherwise - I grew up on the periphery of Liverpool, where the police were literally in the pocket of people like Curtis Warren. It was ultimately spooks which broke the back of police corruption there - bugging the houses of senior officers etc. Only a couple actually got jail time DCI Davies etc - but dozens left quietly when faced with (mostly inadmissible) evidence and it was something of a sea change at the time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So if the enforcers of the law can't be trusted, why do we feel the security services can be?"

      There is a difference in mindset?

      The Police are very institutionalised and have a self-protective belief of always claiming the moral high ground. Members tend to conform to the practices of their peers and superiors. Nowadays they too often see themselves as superior to ordinary citizens.

      The security services like MI5 or MI6 - are more about intelligence gathering. The consequences of making the wrong interpretation of data are likely to be very serious for the country. They are more amoral, and nuanced, in their judgements of other people's motives and actions.

      Basically I would be comfortable having a pint with someone from MI5/6 - and avoid a policeman like the plague.

  5. El Presidente
    Big Brother

    Subject Access Request

    (s1-eu4.ixquick-proxy link via tinyurl ) http://tinyurl.com/lanm6xe

    Unless you know you are a spy (therefore they do) all historical data and certainly anything held on record older than 5 years must be disclosed. For £10 per access. Like with many public employees, initial responses to reasonable, lawful requests seem designed to avoid the drone doing the job they have been paid to do. Stick with it, persist, keep accurate records of the names and numbers of all the drones you deal with and the stupid answers they give. You also have the right to have any incorrect information removed from your record.

    Imagine is tens of thousands of people decided to exercise this right?

    No sheeple icon so big brother.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Subject Access Request

      Older than 5 years old? Where did you get your information from? I just got my SAR through and it's current to this date.

      1. El Presidente
        Thumb Up

        Re: Subject Access Request

        @AC

        Thanks for confirming that the SAR works.

  6. Crisp

    76 officers in London have been investigated

    I'd wager that's just the tip of a very big iceberg.

    1. Rikkeh

      Re: 76 officers in London have been investigated

      Indeed- I'd also bet that the number of people actually abusing the PNC has probably gone *down* rather than up, as a result of it becoming more traceable and more of a priority.

      Doesn't make it any less outrageous- indeed, the fact that so many are being caught for it suggests that it's ingrained in the culture.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 76 officers in London have been investigated

      Since 2009. So 14 officers per year investigated. That's 14, per year, out of 32000 police officers plus another 3-4000 police staff with 4 investigations actually having a positive outcome.

      What's the threshold for investigation? Is it allegations or the result of a dip sample? What does the investigation look like? Is it "Right, you need to justify these x checks" or is it an actual, in-depth trawl through a user's PNC history?

      It doesn't exactly look like rampant misuse to me...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: 76 officers in London have been investigated

        "It doesn't exactly look like rampant misuse to me"

        In the same way that no Met Police officer who has published their memoirs has ever admitted to taking a bribe.

        Ever.

        Not a single one.

        1. kraut
          Holmes

          Re: 76 officers in London have been investigated

          In the same way that no Met Police officer who has published their memoirs has ever admitted to taking a bribe.

          Ever.

          Not a single one.

          Well you'd have to be extraordinarily stupid to admit to taking bribes in your memoirs.

          Or brazen, and particularly well informed about the statute of limitations.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. g e
    Holmes

    "despite having a record on the PNC"

    It's obviously not doing its job.

    So delete the excess data.

    I'm sneaking strong laxatives into the water supply at the next ACPO gathering...

    1. Evil Auditor
      Pint

      Re: "despite having a record on the PNC"

      If you want the laxatives end up in the CPOs you'd rather put it somewhere else.

      See left.

  8. wavesahoy
    Big Brother

    What's the problem?

    According to our esteemed Foreign Secretary, if "we've got nothing to hide, then we have nothing to fear". So why the fuss? Clearly our trusted enforcers would never abuse the system, right?

    1. kraut
      Big Brother

      Re: What's the problem?

      I like that principle.

      I'd like it even more if it were applied to the people who want to foist it on us.

      So let's start by disclosing the communications (metadata only, natch) of our MPs and senior civil servants.

      And let's get rid of the idea of hiding "commercially sensitive" details of deals with the government. You can't do business with the government and hide the details from the people who are paying the bill.

      1. Squander Two

        Re: What's the problem?

        I am frankly astonished that no British tabloid has started a feature called "If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide" in which they publish compromising pictures of senior politicians, civil servants, police officers, etc.

    2. Annihilator Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What's the problem?

      I've never screamed so loudly at a TV in my life when he said that. Quite why he hasn't been torn to shreds in the mainstream press is beyond me.

      1. Professor Falken
        Stop

        Re: What's the problem?

        Because most of the "mainstream" press (Sun/Mirror/Mail/Express/etc.) agree with his point of view.

    3. PatientOne

      Re: What's the problem?

      "if you've got nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear" (to revert to the older saying).

      We have plenty of things to hide, and quite legitimately, too. In fact, we're required to hide things, such as PIN numbers and passwords, and we have quite a bit to fear if they are found out. Indeed, we can get into a LOT of trouble if we didn't hide some things...

  9. Justicesays
    Boffin

    So, how were these uncovered?

    How were these Police Officers uncovered? Was there a random Audit process of all accesses?

    Or are these coppers caught after someone affected made a complaint/another officer noticed?

    If this was from a random audit then it would be easy to estimate how many illegitimate accesses there were based on total population, and could we get that information? If there isn't a random audit process, there bloody well should be.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: So, how were these uncovered?

      Read my post above... They were 'uncovered' because they were already in hot water at the station, somebody(ies) didn't like them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    All this monitoring and it doesn't matter for shit, things like 7/7 still happen. It's completely ineffectual for the most part.

    1. g e
      Meh

      True...

      Assuming that the stated purpose of the PNC is what it actually exists for...

      Which is unlikely.

    2. david wilson

      @murph

      >>"All this monitoring and it doesn't matter for shit, things like 7/7 still happen. It's completely ineffectual for the most part."

      Quite.

      All this healthcare, and people still die in hospitals, therefore most healthcare is completely useless.

  11. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Telegram from the Queen?

    WTF?

    didn't you know that the world's last telegram is about to be sent (well, next month) somewhere in India?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/06/indias-last-telegram-will-be-sent-in-july/276913/

    Come on El-Reg please join the 21st Century or are you all stuck using 110 baud dial-up modems and ASR-33 Teletypes?

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      Re: Telegram from the Queen?

      Wrong thread?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Telegram from the Queen?

        @Anonymous Coward 15 - back at you... Correct thread?

      2. Mako

        Re: Telegram from the Queen?

        I think he's referring to this;

        "the cops appealed and won the right to keep millions of minor records until a person reaches the ripe old age of 100, when they are finally set free from the database"

        At reaching 100 years old, the queen used to send you a congratulatory telegram, (she still does, but these days you have to ask for it).

    2. Richard IV
      Headmaster

      Re: Telegram from the Queen?

      These phrases get set in technological aspic. It's allowed. Commemorative laser printed card from the Queen just doesn't have the same ring. Nor does telemessage from the Queen, which was the system from 1982 to 1999.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My wife's ex-husband investigated me via PNC checks when he found out I was dating her. He wanted to find any evidence he could use to ensure I wasn't allowed near his children. Knowing I had no convictions or anything to hide, I knew he wouldn't get very far. I complained though, and nothing happened. They certainly look after their own, bunch of bent b*****ds!

    1. david wilson

      >>"My wife's ex-husband investigated me via PNC checks when he found out I was dating her. He wanted to find any evidence he could use to ensure I wasn't allowed near his children."

      So he wasn't bothered about you being near his ex-wife, and he told you he was checking you out?

      And you're sure he did actually make checks, he wasn't just claiming he would to see if it might put you off.?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Personally, I think he was more worried about me being with his ex-wife than his children. I only found out about the checks when he confessed he couldn't pin anything on me.

        1. david wilson

          >>" I only found out about the checks when he confessed he couldn't pin anything on me."

          So you found out after the event, not before?

          I'd assumed from:

          >>"Knowing I had no convictions or anything to hide, I knew he wouldn't get very far"

          that you'd found out before the event.

          Taking what you say as true, I'd wonder whether someone who'd made an unwarranted check being stupid enough to tell their target what they'd done would be *more* disturbing than someone doing the check in the first place.

          Doing the check could be a spur-of-the-moment thing. Being that thick would seem likely to be more of a chronic issue.

      2. Don Jefe
        Alert

        "And you're sure he did actually make checks, he wasn't just claiming he would to see if it might put you off.?"

        THAT ^^^ is exactly what is wrong with a system like this and the chimps that have access to it. Even if they don't actually do the checks they can abuse their position to intimidate people. The fact you posited that he may have done just that is evidence of the fact shit is fucked up.

  13. Senior Ugli

    LIFE MOTTO

    Dont trust anyone

    Question Everything

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LIFE MOTTO

      Question Everything

      Why?

      :)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digital Age Really Worth It?

    Technology allows the minutiae of our life to be recorded in great detail & it's going to get better at it over the coming decades. We may have all got used to CCTV very quickly, but are we really ready to be watch 24/7?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Digital Age Really Worth It?

      I'm begining to think that the majority of people like being watched 24/7. Look at "reality shows" and the never-ending quest for attention and fame of people.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Couple of quick points:

    The PNC doesn't hold vehicle information. That's the DVLA database which is a completely separate system. Get your facts right.

    You would have to ask for a Person Check, Vehicle Check and Hash DL for driver license details. Those last two are a different system and the PNC operator would have to log into those and input your details again.

    Secondly, the only reason a persons details would be on the PNC is if they have had some form of interaction with the Police due to an unlawful matter, such as being stopped at the roadside and issued a Vehicle Defect Rectification Scheme ticket (No penalties attached) for a vehicle fault where the Officer opts to go down the friendly route of a warning notice to get it fixed.

    People that are stopped and searched don't go on PNC unless the search ends up positive.

    The vulnerable adults and child database is also separate, which holds a list of people approved to work with kids.

    So when I go on to the PNC channel, I can access about five different databases, but the PNC one is completely stand-alone, no crossover of information.

    It also should be held until the end of time, because I've often pulled someone for an offence and their last known offence was over ten years ago. One guy was a repeat sexual offender but had gone to ground for a decade, another was a prolific housebreaker (Caught, aha, for housebreaking). So why delete PNC records when they clearly will have a criminal record?

    I get audited fairly regularly, when I get sent a form I have to fill out, confirming details I checked on 'x' time and date, and if they don't match what they have in their records when they check my form, then I'm for the high jump. I also need to provide a damn good reason as to why I checked them.

    The PNC database also helps me deal with people trying to give me false details, as I can ask for a descriptive and get told things like scars, tattoos, etc. This actually helps me NOT to jail the wrong person, as sometimes people have the same name and date of birth and that can cause a bit of drama.

    25 cops out of several thousand for the Met isn't bad, but I'm in Scotland and I don't know what the figures are up here, but I've not heard of anything this year.

    Consider how many people with access to other government databases probably just browse through at their lesiure, we're doing not too badly.

    Get some perspective.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It also should be held until the end of time, because I've often pulled someone for an offence and their last known offence was over ten years ago."

      That statement apparently conflates "arrested", "charged", "prosecuted", and "convicted" into a single class of "guilty". Presumably anonymous "gossip" and "hearsay" are held on the PNC too as "soft" intelligence.

      That is the mind set that worries me as the Police become increasingly divorced from the public communities they serve. It also disturbs me that such unproven information is then allowed to be used to influence other people's judgement of a law-abiding citizen.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "The PNC doesn't hold vehicle information. That's the DVLA database which is a completely separate system. Get your facts right."

      True

      PNC2 holds the "Stolen and suspect vehicle index."

      There are plenty of other reasons for a vehicle to be on the PNC apart from being stolen.

      Which means either you don't know as much as you think you do, or you're being misleading.

      1. Don Jefe
        Unhappy

        In fairness to Anon Johnny Law up there, it is probably he who is being misled. Patrol officers and detectives both are taught that once a criminal, of any type, they are statistically likely to be guilty of more crime in the future.

        There is a terrible slippery slope (mis)application of social and behavioral studies built right into their training. Because you commit a crime you are a valid target for the rest of your life for more intense scrutiny and hassle. They're gagging for a chance to 'prove' that all criminals are bad, some more so, but that there is something fundamentally flawed with that person. My uni roommate was in the police academy and was a detective while we lived together for a while after graduation. It was scary how he changed as he was assimilated into the collective.

        If police were paid more the barriers to entry could be raised and the easily influenced could see for themselves how they are being misled into enforcing a system that is broken at its core: Lower the number of bullied turned bully and intellectually handicapped on the street.

    4. Kubla Cant Silver badge
      Big Brother

      @AC 10:20

      Any doubts I had about the authoritarian, dictatorial, guilty-until-proven-innocent-but-probably-guilty-anyway attitude of the Police have been dispelled by this appalling MacPlod. He writes:

      interaction with the Police due to an unlawful matter, such as being stopped at the roadside and issued a Vehicle Defect Rectification Scheme ticket

      So, one cracked tail-light is justification for 100 years on the PNC. MacPlod ends with a piece of advice he could do with taking himself:

      Get some perspective.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's if they fail to comply with the ticket, in which case a charge is brought against them.

        :)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC 10:20

      "Secondly, the only reason a persons details would be on the PNC is if they have had some form of interaction with the Police due to an unlawful matter, such as being stopped at the roadside and issued a Vehicle Defect Rectification Scheme ticket (No penalties attached) for a vehicle fault where the Officer opts to go down the friendly route of a warning notice to get it fixed.

      People that are stopped and searched don't go on PNC unless the search ends up positive."

      My ex filed a "Missing Persons report" on me (which should never have been opened anyway as I'd only been gone 6hours), which was reported as a mistaken filing when I walked back in the house 8 hours later holding my knackered mobile (the only action the police had taken in the incident was to visit me at the house to confirm I was there and that it had all been a mistake and misunderstanding, and a quick call to my friends to confirm where I'd been).

      If "...the only reason a persons details would be on the PNC is if they have had some form of interaction with the Police due to an unlawful matter...", why was this raised and notified to Social Services when they decided to do a "relevant information" PNC check on me nearly 2 years later when I started seeing someone who's kids were on CIN? According to what you are saying, this information should not have existed for them?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erroneous information

    You are not banned from the VWP if you have been arrested or have a criminal record - please stop spreading misinformation - check your facts before misleading people.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Erroneous information

      Try reading the US embassy website, meladdo:

      http://london.usembassy.gov/add_crime.html

      "We recommend that anyone who have ever been arrested and/or convicted of an offense apply for a visa."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erroneous information

        That's because the concept of "moral turpitude" is mostly alien to non-septics.

        You are NOT exempt from the visa waiver program if your offence was not one involving moral turpitude.

        If you actually go to the US immigration website, and follow the advice you don't have to get a visa.

        AC obvs

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Erroneous information

          Sigh. From the link above:

          "Travelers who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records, (the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the United States, or have previously overstayed on the VWP are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program."

          In brief: "if you've been arrested, regardless of what happened next, you're ineligible for the VWP"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Erroneous information

            Sigh, that's the Embassy not the Department of State.

            If the offence does not fall under the "moral turpitude" banner you are fine to use the Visa waiver.

            1. Squander Two
              FAIL

              You eejit.

              If someone's considering going to the US, they'll check with the embassy for information. They won't then think "Oh, hang on, that was the embassy, not the Department of State, so I should ignore everything they told me." If the embassy tell them they need a visa, they'll apply for a visa.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: You eejit.

                Doesn't make it right. You eejit.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What are we getting excited about?

    PNC holds this:

    A name

    A DOB

    A last known address and maybe some historical address

    A list of previous convictions

    A list of pending cases

    Bail conditions, live warrants, locate trace details if a cop wants to speak to that person and a few other things such as a description of the person and warning markers if they're violent, known to use drugs, etc.

    Apart from some other miscellanous information, guess what, that's it!

    So.................. why the excitement?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are we getting excited about?

      "Apart from some other miscellanous information, guess what, that's it!"

      You failed to mention "arrests". Yet apparently they are recorded even if there was no evidence to charge. Are such "arrests" not on the PNC?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What are we getting excited about?

        Interesting.

        Lets clarify something here. As a Police Officer, I can only arrest someone if I have sufficiency of evidence to charge them. If I don't, then I detain them. Detention is totally different and wont generate a PNC record because no charges are brought forward.

        When someone is arrested, they are going to be charged or very, very rarely, released from arrest without charge (I've never done that, nor can I think of any colleagues who have) - that basically means something has come to light and the grounds for arrest no longer exist, in which case away they go.

        So not sure what you're saying there. If I arrest someone and charge them then I submit a form which generates a PNC number and record for that person, they are now on the system. If I detain someone, I don't submit that form unless I get enough evidence to charge from the interview, further enquiries, etc. Then they move to arrested, charged, and I submit that form.

        The only other time your details end up on PNC are for offences for which you get a ticket.

        Now, if you're not getting confused with an Officer charging, or them being proven guilty in a court of law, then someone somewhere is spouting wrong information.

        If they go to court though and are found not guilty, that doesn't matter, they're still on the PNC and will remain so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What are we getting excited about?

          You are inspector Gadget and I claim my £5.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What are we getting excited about?

          "When someone is arrested, they are going to be charged or very, very rarely, released from arrest without charge (I've never done that, nor can I think of any colleagues who have) - [...]"

          A quote on a recent radio discussion stated that too many people were being arrested on flimsy grounds in the hope of a search producing evidence for the alleged crime - or for some other potential offence that can be used as justification. That suggests it is commonplace.

          Media reports often say that the Police have made a series of arrests of connected, or unconnected, people in various investigations. At the end of the investigation many, or all, are neither cautioned nor charged. Those high profile cases would therefore appear to be the tip of a statistical iceberg.

          It would be interesting to know the official statistics for arrests that do not lead to a caution or charge - against the total of prosecutions or convictions.

          I have found this morning's postings most illuminating. Every one that supports the Police has convinced me that they really are trying too hard to hide something that the public should know.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Stop

          Re: What are we getting excited about?

          I have once been charged with "raping a girl on the railway station in XY". They took my DNA, fingerprints and so on and had me in in their police hq cell for a few hours. Then they found I had a waterproof alibi for that day, which meant they drove me home. This happened in Germany and I assume they still have me on the record.

          How would this be with the British PNC database ? Still on record forever for "being accused of rape" ? DNA into the DNA database forever ? Maybe some of the Police Propaganda Operatives can clarify that. And don't weasel the question, please. What would happen in an unproven allegation of rape. Please answer specifically and don't bullshit us. Thank you.

        4. Don Jefe
          FAIL

          Re: What are we getting excited about?

          So you are justifying detaining someone against their will, even if they have done nothing to be arrested for. That's fangoddamntastic. I hope you are in a place where you aren't issued a gun, taser or spray. People like you are dangerous. You can alter someone's future because your mistake got them a record. Jesus. How thick do you have to be to not see the problem?

        5. Squander Two
          Stop

          Re: What are we getting excited about?

          > As a Police Officer, I can only arrest someone if I have sufficiency of evidence to charge them.

          And then they don't go to court, right? Why bother, as arrested equals guilty? Just lock 'em up.

          Look, we all know that the police think everyone they arrest is guilty, but the reason we have courts is that the police are very very wrong about that. And, once someone's been found not guilty in court, much as the police think it's a travesty, it is in fact the law that that person be treated as if they are not guilty, and quite right too. We civilised people are not happy with your assertion that our records won't end up on the PNC unless you have enough evidence to arrest us: quite the opposite: that's the bloody problem.

          And "evidence" apparently includes "Roy Meadows doesn't understand basic statistics but is a doctor so we must do as he says."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are we getting excited about?

      "Apart from some other miscellanous information, guess what, that's it!"

      Why does that statement remind me of the child's - "oh - what's in my hand behind my back? - that's nothing important".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are we getting excited about?

      Because if the bloke next door is a copper, it's none of his effing business what your previous is unless you have dealings with him "professionally"

    4. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: What are we getting excited about?

      Well then, let's make all this information freely available to everyone if it's so uncontentious. After you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What are we getting excited about?

        Very mature comment.

        So you want everyone's details made available to everyone else?

        You can request your PNC record you know - FOI and all that.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're all at

    I personally know of one copper who is abusing the system near where I live.

    He cheated on his partner and when caught moved out. Hes been using police systems ever since to keep an eye on his ex partner still living in the house with the kids.

    He once turned up threatening her believing she was reporting him as he couldn't look up on the system why other officers were visiting his house, police had been round for a completely different matter.

    Shes kept quiet so far for the sake of the kids but has evidence of him spying on her with police system and I don't believe it will be too long before she snaps and does actually report it to the IPCC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They're all at

      So why don't you stop posting on an internet forum about it and report him?

      If he's admitted this to you, stop shirking your responsibilities as a member of the public and shop him.

      Or is this just what you think is happening with no evidence to back it up?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They're all at

        The ex partner has a recording of him admitting it. I went to report it myself but was begged not to, as she doesn't want the kids finding out about daddy unless she can help it.

      2. Don Jefe
        FAIL

        Re: They're all at

        Report the cop to the cops? After the statements by Captain Justice up there about 'feel like it' detentions who in their right mind would want to interact with the police. Who wants a permenant record of getting a policeman in trouble?

        1. Vic

          Re: They're all at

          > who in their right mind would want to interact with the police.

          Many years ago, I was a witness in the prosecution of two police officers.

          Because of a major prosecution cock-up, I only found out about the hearing the night before, which meant getting to court was going to be difficult for me.

          So they sent a marked car round to pick me up. There were two coppers in the front, with me in the back. And all the neighbours saw.

          A frostier atmosphere you could not imagine...

          Vic.

          1. goodjudge

            Re: They're all at

            Reminds me of being stopped in Victoria Station one lunchtime. They only wanted me to take part in an ID parade. I said yes and was escorted into a waiting police van with a couple of other similarly long-haired, scruffily dressed young men. I was amused, the onlooking commuters not so much... And that false perception - as per Vic's example - is why any records other than an accepted caution or successful prosecution should not be retained. At all.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    "The more you give them, the more they want".

    The PNC should not hold old convictions / cautions UNLESS they are of a serious nature / involve vulnerable people (ie children). How does a caution / slap on the wrist (or back in the day a clip around the ear) for say stealing a mars bar from Woolies 30 years ago bear any influence whatsoever to any future behaviour? Such minor incidents serve just to cement the fact that give any establishment the ability to hold information on you and they will expand it out of all proportion on the weak premise of "just in case". Minor incidents should be wiped off after the 8 year period as detailed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act for spent convictions, anything less is a travesty and downright goes far beyond orwellian.

    As a nation, we seem to be moving (or realistically have moved) more and more into the realm of constant surveillance and monitoring of ordinary people under the guise of "terrorism" (please) or crime prevention (really?) and seem to be able to do nothing about it. Writing to your MP is about as ineffectual on any matter as asking your dog to do the same, protests just seem to mark you for life for being "disruptive" and no doubt added to some database anyway. To me, democracy is an illusion or another way, democracy is the ability to vote in the next dictator.

    Once they have these databases, they become seductive and at that point you might as well try to walk on water rather than get them to give them up.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I cannot emphasize that statement strongly enough.

    No doubt not writing anonymously will mark me as a "troublemaker" but hey, fuck it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The more you give them, the more they want".

      "The PNC should not hold old convictions / cautions UNLESS they are of a serious nature / involve vulnerable people (ie children)."

      ..and arrests that do not lead to a charge or caution should be expunged immediately. At most they should be retained in a category of unsubstantiated "gossip" and not revealed for anything like ECRB checks that smears an innocent person.

    2. david wilson

      Re: "The more you give them, the more they want".

      >>"The PNC should not hold old convictions / cautions UNLESS they are of a serious nature / involve vulnerable people (ie children)."

      [...]

      >>"Minor incidents should be wiped off after the 8 year period as detailed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act for spent convictions, anything less is a travesty and downright goes far beyond orwellian."

      I'm struggling to visualise how the combination of the PNC and the rehabilitation of offenders act is worse than a boot stamping on a human face forever.

      >>"As a nation, we seem to be moving (or realistically have moved) more and more into the realm of constant surveillance and monitoring of ordinary people..."

      I'm potentially constantly monitored whenever I'm in a public space, just as I have always been.

      As a result of CCTV technology, some remote or after-the-event monitoring of me is now possible, but still takes some effort to follow me, even in the areas where there are cameras.

      Why would someone sitting in a room bother to track *me* on CCTV from one camera to the next?

      Let's be honest here - if they have time on their hands, little supervision to make them do proper work, and no-one obviously shifty to look at, they'll probably be following some young woman with large breasts and minimal clothing.

      >>"Writing to your MP is about as ineffectual on any matter as asking your dog to do the same, protests just seem to mark you for life for being "disruptive" and no doubt added to some database anyway."

      No doubt.

      Though whether in the PNC or the NHS may be up for debate.

      1. Squander Two
        WTF?

        Re: "The more you give them, the more they want".

        > Let's be honest here - if they have time on their hands, little supervision to make them do proper work, and no-one obviously shifty to look at, they'll probably be following some young woman with large breasts and minimal clothing.

        Fantastic! If the system's just used by mysogynist stalkers to track women, everything is AOK. Can't for the life of me think why I was worried now.

        There was of course that case of council workers pointing CCTVs into a woman's bedroom a couple of years back, but hey, she was probably asking for it by being attractive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The more you give them, the more they want".

          well, there was that news story the other day about a prostitute being reported to the police for being unattractive, so maybe that is how the police use their time?

        2. david wilson

          Re: "The more you give them, the more they want".

          >>"Fantastic! If the system's just used by mysogynist stalkers to track women, everything is AOK. "

          It would only be 'just' if a system was used for nothing else.

          The tongue-in-cheek point I was making was that hardly any of the paranoid types here seem likely to be followed by The System unless there's some meaningful other reason to follow them (I'm not sure we're yet to the point of whining on the internet being a valid reason for surveillance*).

          Very few seem likely to be attractive females, and as long as they don't go around in an anarchist's black cloak and hat while carrying a spherical comedy bomb, it's unlikely anyone will pay them any more attention on CCTV than people on the street would.

          (*and as everyone knows, the Register is actually run by MI5, with all details being recorded, *especially* from anonymous posters).

          1. Squander Two

            How selfish.

            David, some of us object to the surveillance state on principle, not because we are specific targets of it.

            Also, all you are pointing out is a current technical limitation. Within living memory, the mass coverage by CCTV was itself impossible. Now we have it. Given recent governments' of both stripes avowed interest in developing effective face-recognition tech, plugging it into the whole network, and storing the results in a database, your confidence that the only people who'll be tracked are people whom individual screen-watching humans have the time and inclination to track is absurd.

          2. Vic

            Re: "The more you give them, the more they want".

            > hardly any of the paranoid types here seem likely to be followed by The System

            Given the Prism revelations recently, I'd simply ask: "how do you know"?

            Vic.

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    how many were arrested?

    Of those found breaking the public trust in the most serious way - how many are now in prison?

    If due to their actions the public now distrusts the noble guardians of our safety - isn't this a rather more serious crime than fiddling expenses?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: how many were arrested?

      Ah, that information is buried forever on the PNC and you cannot have it so there.

      1. Don Jefe
        Meh

        Re: how many were arrested?

        That information is not buried and is easily obtainable through FOI request. See below for an example:

        Officers REDACTED which REDACTED to a query REDACTED REDACTED system where REDACTED REDACTED. REDACTED did find REDACTED the officer REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED and was subsequently REDACTED REDACTED REACTED REDACTED REDACTED until the date REDACTED with REDACTED by order of REDACTED.

        To protect the privacy of those named in this request some information has been REDACTED. Additionally some information has been REDACTED to ensure internal policies and procedures are not subjected to public scrutiny which could negatively affect performance of the involved agencies. REDACTED information cannot be made available through this agency or any other agency.

  21. bag o' spanners
    Facepalm

    the most terrifying thing about this database is the computer-illiterate halfwits who input the data

  22. JohnMurray

    And who else....I understand that local taxation offices also have PNC access ?

    AGENCIES HAVING DIRECT ACCESS TO THE POLICE NATIONAL COMPUTER

    British Transport Police;

    Civil Nuclear Constabulary (previously the UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary);

    Isle of Man Police;

    States of Jersey Police;

    Guernsey Police;

    Ministry of Defence Police;

    Royal Military Police;

    RAF Police;

    Secret Intelligence Service;

    Security Service;

    National Ports Office;

    National Identification Service;

    National Criminal Intelligence Service;

    National Crime Squad;

    Scottish Crime Squad;

    Scottish Criminal Record Office;

    Northern Ireland Criminal Record Office;

    Regional Criminal Intelligence Offices;

    Port of Dover Police;

    Hendon Data Centre;

    Police Staff College, Bramshill;

    Police Information Communication Technology Training Services (PICTTS), Leicester;

    Immigration Service;

    HM Revenue and Customs;

    Post Office;

    Financial Services Authority;*

    National Health Service;*

    Department of Trade and Industry;*

    Office of Fair Trading;*

    Central Summoning Bureau (Dept of Constitutional Affairs);

    Department of Work and Pensions* (previously Dept of Social Security);

    Criminal Records Bureau;

    Forensic Science Service;

    Motor Insurance Database;

    HM Prisons (some of them);

    National Enforcement Service;

    Drivers Vehicle and Licensing Authority; and

    Schengen Information System.

    * for prosecution purposes only.

    Sources: Hansard HC Debates 22 March 1995 col 200; 18 April 1995 cols 87-8; 26 April 1995, cols 566-7; 5 February 2002, col 858w; 8 July 2003, col 716w; 15 July 2003, col 278w; 4 July 2005, col WA63.

    PITO News Issue No 8 (pp 14-15); No 9 (p 3); No 29 (p 11); No 30 (pp 8-9); No 35 (pp 8-9). Home Office (2003(a)) Annex B Group 4.

    13. In April 2006 the Government announced its intention to replace the PNC as such by a new Police National Database costing £367 million and due for implementation by 2010. While this new Database was under development funding would be made available "to update the hardware platform of the PNC (to) ensure it remains fit for purpose until the Police National Database is fully in service" (Hansard HC Debates 19 April 2006, Cols 18WS to 19WS).

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldconst/18/18we26.htm

  23. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Nothing new here.

    New Zealand have had a national computer since the 1970s - with criminal penalties for misuse.

    Casual breaching of access rules was the norm in the 1980s and complaints about such activities were simply binned. Anecdotally the same thing was happening in the UK.

    It seems to me that the level of abuse probably hasn't changed, merely the attitude towards it - and detection rate. Most police will close ranks when one of their own has been naughty, rather than let the miscreant face the music - and that makes them no better than the criminals they are supposed to protect us against. Such attitudes must be removed from the police service (NOTE: "service", not "force")

  24. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    Pathetic

    Truly pathetic.

    This is what we have become? This is what we are?

    As a nation? As a people?

    Is there no one to respect or look up to anymore?

  25. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance
    Windows

    But never mind the outrage...

    Wtf has my bronze badge gone?

    I worked fucking hard for that badge. Posting like a demented madman. Are you seriously encouraging me to do that again for another year el reggie?

    I think the other users would prefer it if I didn't.

    I thought that a true merit given in life, remains with one until the end of their life. Else, what's a merit for?

    Did they take back my grandfather's medals from WWII, just because time lapsed and he didn't go back over the top and do it all again, five years later, much to the chagrin of his already long suffering wife?

    "Sorry dear, got to go back to the trenches of Wipers (Ypres to all you heathens), they said they were taking my medals away.."

    I fucking think not!

    I hope this is a blip on your server, if I have been demoted, I shall be most angry. I might even write a long ranting post about it. Such as this one. But longer. And angrier.

    I don't care what wayward policemen get up to in their spare time. I want my bronze badge back.

    Nurse Ratchett!..

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: But never mind the outrage...

      Did you change your handle? The badges are tied to your handle, not your account.

  26. Why Not?
    WTF?

    Titanic meet PNC

    you seriously believe only 25 people peeked?

    With the penalty being allowed to resign and early retirement its hardly a deterrent.

    I suspect this is random sampling not aggressive monitoring.

    I think it should be like your credit record with the opportunity to correct and leave notes on file. No deletion except for entry errors.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Titanic meet PNC

      No this is a sample of those that got caught by journalists and the news got out.

  27. The Indomitable Gall

    Lessons not learned from the fingerprint database.

    Something I remember hearing when these police über-databases were first mooted:

    The retention of fingerprint data had increased over the preceding years, with innocent people, bystanders, etc stored. "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear."

    This gave rise to two problems:

    First up, fingerprinting isn't as accurate as most people believe, and one of the strengths of the old fingerprint database was that by only having criminals on it increased the accuracy, because the only people on it were ones likely to commit crimes (recidivism rates). Retaining non-criminal prints led to increased false matches.

    Secondly, it turned out that the police used the fingerprint database as a list of suspects. As they weren't allowed to keep data on people charged-but-released, they had been considering anyone in the old database as "a criminal who hadn't been caught yet". They kept this attitude up after they started retaining non-criminal, non-suspect prints, and there were stories in the press about people who would get harassed after local crimes with no link to the crime or the victim other than living in the area... and being in the fingerprint database. Now imagine you have your house broken into: the police take you and your significant other's prints to eliminate them from the forensic search... and keep them on record. They never find the guy who did it, but every couple of years the police come knocking on your door because there's been a burglary in your neighbourhood and because they have no leads, they go mining the fingerprint database for "criminals who haven't been caught yet"....

    The two lessons that should have been taken from that are that:

    1) indiscriminate retention decreases the signal-to-noise ratio and increases the risk of false positives and (crucially) reduces the number of genuine positives.

    2) the police always abuse databases.

    But instead of tackling the root problem of the abuse, they just mitigated the symptoms slightly by reducing the set of innocent bystanders that are incorrectly identified by the police as "criminals who haven't been caught yet"....

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Every time I need the police to help me, it seems that the ones i talk to have either not got the training to use the system, or just give a blank stare when asked questions"

    That would be because direct access to the PND/PNC is restricted to a number of trained officers in each Police force. The number varies between forces, with the Met having the most - I forget exactly how many, but it's somewhere around 100. These trained officers fulfil formal requests for information from other officers - detectives, beat officers etc.

    Further, requesting data from the PND/C is exceptional: most crime and intelligence data requests are satisfied from the forces' own crime and intelligence systems - the same systems that are the data source for the PND/PNC.

    "I CANNOT ever have the record of my arrest removed from the PNC"

    A primary purpose of the PNC is to share intelligence data between forces: that someone has been arrested - and found entirely innocent - can be valuable information.

    "It doesn't because the "right to be forgotten" doesn't apply (like so many rules) to the state, and was drafted specifically in relation to consumer interactions with business"

    The police do have a duty to remove data that is no longer relevant and each force has projects or team that handle this. The decision on what to remove is ultimately taken by a police officer, of course which may be a concern to some. Having worked with one police force - actually on their part of the PND/PNC project - I'm far more sanguine about this than I may previously have been.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fairness

    just make it a requirement of FOI requests that if you are not charged or are found not guilty, the police officers and everyone else having access to information about you and yet not removing such information about innocent people from any of HMGs databases are automatically named, so that you can judge for yourself whether there are grounds for legal proceedings against people if they misuse information about you. It cannot be right to simply ask that people 'trust' the people who have a vested interest in the widest ranging database possible to also be the same people responsible for ensuring no information is retained on the innocent.

    Or are all records kept because secretly the various parts of the state actually do believe people are guilty until proven innocent - in which case most MPs might be guilty of being idiots (something that probably isn't a secret) and most police officers might have taken payments from newspapers? Is every single one of those allegations in a police database, regardless of any conviction?

    "The police do have a duty to remove data that is no longer relevant and each force has projects or team that handle this." How many days does that take, who decides what relevant means, and where can ordinary members of the public see that information, press for changes, and see who has been accessing the records in question?

  30. Fiddler on the roof
    FAIL

    Untrue!

    This: For instance if someone has been arrested just once - regardless of whether this was wrongful or for a ridiculously trivial crime - that person is banned from the US Visa Waiver scheme, which allows British nationals to get into the States without a visa.

    is not true.

    1. billse10

      Re: Untrue!

      "Travelers who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, "

      "We do not recommend that travelers who have been arrested at anytime attempt to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program(VWP); they are required to apply for visas before traveling. "

      Quotes are from US Government website for the embassy in London.

      http://london.usembassy.gov/vwp3.html

      and a related page, add_req.

      No mention of guilt, or of a single arrest meaning one is not banned. Is the embassy website wrong, so it's advice to those who wish to travel is incorrect?

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Otto is a bear.

    Police systems

    Everything that is in the PNC is also in local police systems, indeed that is true of all national systems. It has always been the case that the police keep records of what may be hearsay, gossip or rumour, it's called intelligence and come from their sources. This is how ultimately they can stop some crimes before they happen and catch criminals at a later date, because they have the pieces of the jigsaw thy need.

    Some criminals take a very long time to catch, more than 10 years, and it only happens because of the intelligence they have gathered.

    The police have always graded information according to the source, and the "truth" of that information can change based on corroborating or conflicting information.

    Perhaps some of the commentators here might like to suggest how they would gather and use information. The fact that police systems hold details of arrests that don't lead to prosecution, of people who should never have been arrested is the fault of our politicians, not the police, and is in a large part down to the hysteria surrounding Bishard. It is also in part procedural, and down to the admissibility of statements made by suspects under arrest or caution. How do you stop Ian Huntly, and alike, this is what changed the law, and its all to satisfy the tabloids and protect children. How could you object to that?

    BTW - I think that the police habit of arresting at the drop of a hat is wrong and lazy.

  33. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Acquittal is supposed to mean innocence ... except in the UK and the USA

    I worked, a long, long time ago, for the now defunct MDS data equipment company.

    There was an American technician/engineer who was the only person who could fix a particular problem on some equipment specially designed for a security agency in the US government. He rarely went out on calls - except for real emergencies.

    He turns up at the security entrance of this US government office, produces ID and was told he could not enter. Asking why, he was told "because of his record".

    Given the man had an ongoing US government clearance and did all sorts of 'heavy' design work, MDS inquired what the problem was.

    Turns out, as a juvenile, he had broken a neighbours greenhouse window and was hauled off to court. The matter was settled, WITH NO CONVICTION, by his father paying money to the neighbour. No animosity - the cops had changed the whole thing from a nothing into an arrestable offence of a juvenile.

    Only convictions should be recorded.

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