Soham database debacle would not happen here


24 Jun 2004

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The failure of UK police information systems highlighted in the Bichard Enquiry into the Soham murders could never happen in Ireland, according to Eddie Cussen (pictured), chief superintendent in charge of the Garda Information Technology Division (GITD).

The Bichard report, released earlier this week, heavily criticised Humberside police for a records management system that failed to keep information on Ian Huntley. He had been involved in allegations of sexual offences but because his name was not on any database he successfully applied to be caretaker at the Soham school where he subsequently met and murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

The town of Soham comes under the jurisdiction of Cambridgeshire police which found no record of Huntley’s previous history when he was routinely vetted for the caretaker post.

“It wouldn’t happen here,” Cussen told siliconrepublic.com. “Firstly, we only have one [national] police service. And on PULSE [Police Using Leading Systems Effectively] we hold data on different categories of people.”

Huntley didn’t exist on the Humberside database because he was never prosecuted. In Ireland his name would have been stored and kept as a routine part of the investigation.

The PULSE project is the single biggest IT undertaking of the State and is still one of the most ambitious police projects in the world, as Eddie Cussen explains: “We wanted a records management system with an internal records component where everything would be aggregated. Prior to that there were only systems and islands of information. Cars, criminal records, firearms and parking tickets, for example, were all in different places.

“We could have the same person in separate systems and we wouldn’t know it. What PULSE did was to bring all these together in a single database. A place where you only exist once,” he explains.

By Ian Campbell