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New crime-busting Sherlock Holmes app sought for Brit cops

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The Home Office has indicated it plans to tender for a replacement for the Holmes 2 crime investigation system used by police forces.

The Home Office Large Major Enquiry System, which is considered to be critical to UK policing, is the subject of an Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) notice in which the Home Office is seeking "expressions of interest for a replacement solution ("Holmes 3") to be delivered to the UK Police Service. The estimated value of the contract is £40m to £60m.

It presents a good opportunity to seek innovation from the market to achieve value for money and rationalise business processes by moving to a nationally available model for service delivery, consistent with the Government ICT Strategy."

According to the OJEU notice, the new provider will be required to provide support and maintenance services for the current Holmes 2 system while the new solution is developed. Holmes 2 is an application used by every UK police force to support the investigation of murders and a variety of other major crime investigations and major incidents.

Associated "CasWeb/MIRWeb" facilities also provide a web based interface to Holmes 2 for police forces to input information from the public in response to major disasters or incidents.

CasWeb allows mutual aid forces to create, search and update records (missing persons, callers, survivors and casualties) and record messages on the host force's system. MIRWeb, which is an enhancement of CasWeb, uses the same architecture and provides forces with a mutual aid facility for taking telephone messages from the public during a high profile murder enquiry. Both CasWeb and MIRWeb have continued to be enhanced in subsequent versions.

In 1986, UK police forces started to employ the original Holmes system in all major incidents including serial murders, multi-million pound fraud cases and major disasters.

Whilst Holmes was an effective administrative support system for investigating major crimes, the progress of technology revealed some major weaknesses, particularly in the areas of investigation support and linking separate incidents. What police forces said they needed was a new solution that assisted them in exchanging information as well as in making better use of their information.

In 1994, the police service launched a plan to replace the existing Holmes systems with a new system that would overcome these weaknesses, while at the same time offering them the opportunity to update their technology and acquire a flexible system that could cope much more easily with future changes.

In 1994, the police service launched a plan to replace the then existing Holmes systems with a new system known as Holmes 2. Subsequently, in December 1996, Unisys was awarded the contract for the sole supply of Holmes 2. In September 2001, Holmes 2 was fully accredited and formally handed over by the Police IT Organisation (PITO, the predecessor to the NPIA) to UK police forces, with Unisys awarded a five-year support and maintenance contract.

It is possible that any future "Holmes 3" programme will now become the responsibility of the new police ICT company, dubbed "Newco".

This article was originally published at Government Computing.

Government Computing covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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