Whats is the PNC?

What is the PNC? The P.N.C is  the Police National Computer. It is a Unix based computer that stores over 97 million records.

The PNC database stores all information on:

  • Cars/Vehicles
  • People
  • Buildings


The PNC record for vehciles, is essentially a dump of the DVLA database, who owns what, where they live, etc, but can also contain “markers” for cars. e.g. known to carry fire arms, drugs, “recently stolen”, “details of the drive sought”, etc.


The PNC can store information about people as well as vehicles. The people stored on the database includes, those previously convicted, charged and awating trial, or those wanted for a criminal offence.  It does not contain fingerprints, photographs, or DNA records. Those are kept on separate records, though it does record if fingerprints and DNA have been taken. The PNC record for each person contains several fields, including:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Current known address
  • Alias
  • Description: Height, ethnicity, hair colour, tattoos, identifying marks, etc
  • Previous convictions, current bail conditions, any outstanding warrants, and if the individual is wanted.  For example an officer in Birmingham may be trying to trace an individual and put a marker on the PNC saying that an individual is wanted for an offence in Birmingham. Any officer stopping the individual, for example in London, can then arrest the invidual for the offence and either take the suspect to Birmingham, where the case file is stored or the case file and the relevant officer can be brought to London.
  • Warnings – e.g. known for violence, known to escape, known to take drugs, known to breach bail conditions etc. These warnings are put on the PNC by the police, mainly for their own security and knowing how to deal with a suspect. However they carry no evidential weight, and are there for information purposes only.

According to Wiki the PNC was started in 1974, as a vehciles database, and has grown from there.

The primary Police National Computer is stored securely at Hendon, the Metropolitan training center.  Until 2005 the only backup for the critical database for the whole of the UK police was at a “low risk site”.

That low risk site turned out to be 100 meters away from a major oil refinery which blew up in December 2005. What the Home Office defines as low risk is mind boggling.

The PNC has come in for criticism, due to the errors on the PNC, or databases which feed into it.  It should be emphasized that this is not where the DNA or fingerprint data is stored.

Buncefiled, the site of the "secure" backup for the PNC

Buncefield, the site of the "secure" backup for the PNC


2 Responses to “Whats is the PNC?”

  1. Data Misuse: Police (PCSO) « Data – Where is it? Says:

    […] May 2008 PCSO, Police Community Support Office Glen Baker, aged 47, was convicted of accessing the Police National Computer for his own […]

  2. Data Theft and the Legal System « Data – Where is it? Says:

    […] Recently Steve Whittamore, a former police officer, turned private detective turned crook has come back into the news. He worked for a company called JJ limited and during his time there uncovered 17,500 pieces of personal information, for over 400 journalists (from a variety of papers). The data he and his colleagues obtained varied from banking and telephone information to DVLA and PNC records. […]

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