The National Policing Improvement Agency has finally appointed a lead contractor, Logica, for the Police National Database, which will cost up to £600 million.

The NPIA and supplier Logica have signed a seven-year, £75.6 million deal under which the supplier will design and build the database, then run it for the remainder of the contracted period. Subcontractors Northgate and Sungard will help develop applications.

Under the initial phase, which finishes in 2010, the police will centralise data from five operational areas: custody, crime, intelligence, child abuse and domestic abuse. The first use of the data will focus on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, countering terrorism and assisting major crime investigations.

The database, which is due to go live in 2010, aims to link the information held by Britain’s 53 different police forces. If the go live date is met, it will be in use six years after the Bichard Report.

Bichard highlighted a failure to link up information between forces, urging immediate remedial action, “A national IT system for England and Wales to support police intelligence should be introduced as a matter of urgency,” the report stated.

The failure to link up intelligence, the report said, led to Ian Huntley, the killer of school girls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, being able to work as a school caretaker in spite of previous criminal allegations in areas of the country covered by other police forces.

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".

Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, head of the NPIA, said the new database would make the public “safer” and help the police “to stay one step ahead of the criminal population”.

“Currently, police forces are unable to search or access intelligence or other information that is held on another force’s local systems,” he added.

The NPIA was keen to point out that introducing the PND was "not simply about the delivery of the IT". It also requires "business change ... and is a complex process, ensuring not just that the right IT capabilities are delivered but also that the data are ready and the necessary business changes are in place", it said, explaining the staged approach.

The PND is part of the police’s Impact programme, which also includes the Management of Police Information project to set common standards and best practice for police data management, and the Impact Nominal Index to enable forces to establish whether any other force holds information on a person of interest. The latter will be replaced by the PND when it is live.