New document management system provides up to date legal information to the police and the criminal justice sector
The Police National Legal Database is a unique computerised criminal law database of up to the minute legal information, case law and standard offence wordings. Not only is it an important information resource for all police forces in England and Wales but it is also extensively used by other organisations including the British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. PNLD is run by a dedicated team of authors and legal specialists based at the headquarters of West Yorkshire Police in Wakefield.
Having developed the original system some years ago, there was a pressing need to upgrade the system to meet the demands and opportunities offered by the increasing use of internet and mobile devices within the criminal justice sector. A new development would also enable more interoperability with other systems and meet common data standards co-ordinated through the Criminal Justice Information Technology programme. (CJIT)
PNLD were seeking a technology partner to develop the new system, and following a high profile tendering process, they selected PDMS to develop and implement the next generation PNLD system.
At a technical level, the requirement was for a fully browser based document and content management system able to cater for up to 200,000 users. PDMS developed the new system using their FoundationsTM framework and components for document & content management and workflow. FoundationsTM deals with authentication, access control and audit, all of which are intrinsic to the framework. The system is hosted centrally and uses a Microsoft SQL Server database for the data storage and retrieval. Presentation of the data is highly configurable and is based on the use of XSL style sheets to present the user with appropriate information using screens which are configured to reflect both their location and role, and also the type of device they are using to access the system, e.g. PC or hand held device.
The system provides police officers with information such as the correct offence wording, points to prove, and powers of arrest to use when charging someone with a particular offence. It also outlines the definitions of each offence and provides information on any time limits between the date of an offence and when someone can be prosecuted.
The system also provides police officers and staff with legislative and procedural information surrounding a host of criminal offences such as points to prove, powers of arrest and the offence wordings, which are used when a person is charged with an offence. The system also has the ability to provide local information such as bye laws and local Force Policies which effect the legal process. These are visible only to the specific regions or Forces to which they apply.
PNLD can be accessed on-line, through the Criminal Justice Extranet (CJX) or, for police forces that do not currently have access to the CJX, on CD-Rom. PDMS use their FoundationsTM data publishing software to publish all of the PNLD data onto CD-Rom, giving users with no internet or CJX access equivalent functionality.
Some of the system's many other features include:
Sophisticated authoring and editing
Sophisticated authoring and editing through content management suite of tools and real time publishing using a totally web based application.
Facilities to link documents
Facilities to link documents so users have easy access to related information. Editors can add and remove links and view links both to and from each document.
Multiple security levels
Multiple levels of security clearance in relation to both viewing the data and editing functions.
Many different views for displaying the information e.g. summary or full, system editors can create these.
Fast data conversion
With substantial amounts of existing data in the original PNLD, PDMS also had to ensure that the new system would allow for fast and efficient data conversion.
Each editor has their own workspace so they can easily see which documents they are currently working on and their publication status.
PNLD is the only up to date source of legal information that is available to the whole of the Police Sector throughout England and Wales. The new PNLD system ensures that Police officers and Police staff have fast and easy access to the law in a user-friendly and informative format. The use of internet technology ensures that the information is as up-to-date as possible whilst also permitting 24 hour a day access. Using the sophisticated search facilities Police Officers can quickly and easily identify the right offence and know what points they have to prove when taking statements. The facility to add local documents is a huge benefit with forces able to tailor the content to meet their own specific needs.
In 2004, PNLD received more than 2 million hits from some 30,000 work stations. An average hit lasts 6 minutes, whilst practical evaluation demonstrates that the time taken to look in a book for the same relevant information would be 20 minutes. Therefore, PNLD has saved over approximately 28 million minutes or 466,666 hours of valuable police resources in 2004 alone.
The new PNLD has been such a success that a new version of the system is being made available for commercial use over the internet. Available on a subscription basis at www.pnld.co.uk, organisations such as law firms can access the database of legal information saving them valuable time and money which would otherwise be spent trawling through text books.