The National Policing Improvement Agency has upgraded the key police investigation management system, in order to improve forces’ ability to share and find information.

The news comes as the police face increasing pressure to improve information sharing between forces.

Under the new improvements to the ten-year old Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES 2), run by supplier Unisys, forces can more easily share information. A new tagging system also enables the police to clearly label and search specific details.

In tests, police found a 40 per cent improvement in response times when searching for information. In order to see the information input by another force, however, cross-force agreements have to be in place.

The system helps police process the vast amounts of information generated during investigations, and aids them in identifying critical information links that could hold the key to solving a case.

Jon Stoddart, chief constable at Durham Constabulary, said the system was a vital tool in solving crime. The improved data-sharing between forces “will allow us all to take a more joined-up approach to policing, which can only be a positive step towards tackling crime”, he said.

During the last ten years, the HOLMES system has been used in around half of murder investigations, and has helped police solve multi-million pound fraud cases. It was used by the Metropolitan Police to help identify British citizens involved in the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

HOLMES 2 is used by 4,300 police officers on around 9,500 PCs, across all 53 UK police forces. The current contract with Unisys comes up for renewal in September 2011.

The improvement in data sharing comes only a week after the NPIA finally appointed a contractor, Logica, to build the Police National Database which will contain data on the criminals themselves. That appointment came five years after the Bichard report stated that police data sharing needed to be improved “as a matter of urgency”.

That report, into the police investigation of the murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, found that the failure to link up intelligence led to the killer, Ian Huntley, being able to work as a school caretaker in spite of previous criminal allegations in areas of the country covered by other police forces.

But last July, a high level report by Sir Ian Magee found that the police had failed to introduce about a third of the recommendations on data sharing in the Bichard report, in spite of £2 billion worth of "public protection IT".

The PND is expected to use relevant information gathered from the HOLMES 2 investigations system.