Advanced Search

Chapter 31: Cases using Holmes 2


31.1. The Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (Holmes2) is a computer database that has been designed to aid the investigation into large-scale enquiries. It can be used by the police to collate and subsequently cross reference all information gathered in a major investigation.

31.2. The system is based on a server and allows a number of users to input, update and access information at the same time. All police forces in the United Kingdom have their own Holmes2 server and they have the ability to link incidents to share information or conduct a joint investigation but not all forces use it for all major crime.

31.3. Holmes2 has been created so that it can cater for investigations of varying size and complexity. The roles performed by staff will therefore vary and on smaller investigations people may undertake more than one role whereas on a very large enquiry a team of people may be needed for the same function.

31.4. All information will be recorded and entered into the incident room as source documentation. Staff will assess this information and decide on what action should be taken in line with the officer in charge of investigation's policy. Staff will also assess what information should be cross-referenced and indexed so that it can be easily researched and retrieved.

31.5. Holmes2 has a number of indices, management tools, document storage, search tools and a customised disclosure facility.

31.6. Once the disclosure officer has made an assessment of sensitive and non-sensitive items and whether they meet the disclosure test, Holmes2 can automatically list and generate the items onto the relevant schedules.

31.7. It is inappropriate to allow the defence direct access to Holmes2 because of its ability to cross-reference sensitive and non-sensitive material.

Disclosure officers

31.8. The disclosure officer will be an integral part of the Major Incident Team and the individual appointed must have completed training in disclosure and the specific Holmes2 disclosure facility. The officer in charge of investigation must provide support and supervision and ensure that the disclosure officer has sufficient skills and authority commensurate with the complexity of the investigation to discharge their functions effectively, using Holmes2.

31.9. By their nature, Holmes2 enquiries are likely to generate a vast amount of documentation. A disclosure officer should be appointed at the beginning of the enquiry so that they are aware of all aspects of the case and can start to assess the material.

31.10. The officer in charge of investigation and disclosure officer should be familiar with the law and practice as set out in the CPIA 1996 and Code of Practice, the CJA 2003, the Attorney General's Guidelines and the rest of this manual.

31.11. The disclosure officer should liaise with the officer in charge of investigation to ensure that all relevant material obtained in the course of the investigation is revealed to the prosecutor. The disclosure officer should also inform the prosecutor on the issues in the case and the rationale used for identifying material that meets the disclosure test.

Top of page

Relevant material

31.12. Definitions of 'unused material' and 'relevance' are contained within paragraph 2.1 of the Code of Practice with more detailed guidance found within chapter 5 of this manual. Most of the material gathered during the course of a major investigation that is not prosecution evidence will be unused material and will fall within the definition given. Additionally, some statements may initially form part of the evidence but subsequently become unused material.

31.13. There may be some material in the case that has been recorded in the incident room that at that stage does not have a bearing on the case. For example, an officer's report requesting annual leave, damage to a police car, or a message stating that photographs were ready for collection or copy exhibits created as other documents for research purposes. Using the 'non-relevant' button on Holmes2 will mean that these items will not be scheduled and accordingly the prosecutor will not see the material or be made aware of it.

31.14. If in doubt the disclosure officer should schedule the material to reveal it to the prosecutor or ask for prosecution advice.

The disclosure officer and Holmes2 documents

31.15. The Holmes2 disclosure facility has been designed so that the disclosure officer will have to consider all source material for disclosure purposes. The source material is registered with a unique identifier that shows the document type and each item will have a number that is unique to that material type. For example actions will be numbered A1, A2, whereas interview records will be recorded as Y1, Y2 etc. The unique letter used for each document type is shown in brackets:

  • Actions (A)
  • Electronic Transmissions (T)
  • Exhibits (X)
  • House to house (H)
  • Interviews (Y)
  • Messages (M)
  • Other Documents (D)
  • Officers' Reports (R)
  • Personal Descriptive Forms (P)
  • Questionnaires (Q)
  • Statements (S).

31.16. The printed schedules produced from the system will show each item with its unique reference number. The computer cannot number items consecutively. The pages will be numbered consecutively and the schedule will be date and time stamped.

31.17. The indices are a working tool of the investigation and contain information drawn from the source documentation. Indices do not have to be considered for disclosure because they have no independent significance or bearing on the case. All information entered onto an index must, therefore be sourced to a document. The indices are:

  • Categories
  • Location
  • Nominals
  • Sequence of Events
  • Telephone
  • Vehicle.

31.18. The index records will contain cross-references from a mixture of non-sensitive and sensitive records and there is no facility to edit the index records on screen. Due to this, it is not appropriate to allow the defence access to Holmes2.


31.19. The disclosure officer should aim to submit the schedules with the file, but in a major enquiry this may not be possible due to the volume of unused material. The arrest and post charge stage of the investigation may raise new lines of enquiry as a result of the interviews, forensic possibilities, telephone examinations, etc.

31.20. The prosecutor should be informed of the volume of unused material and this should be revealed to them in phases within agreed time scales. It is important to enter a dialogue with the prosecutor and explain the nature and extent of any problem as it arises, reach an agreement, and keep each other fully informed.

31.21. Holmes2 facilitates the phased approach and will record all actions raised, together with how they were completed. Unused material that is ready at the approach of the section 51 time limit will be served as phase 1. The disclosure officer should update the phase field to ensure that any additional material will automatically fall to be served to the prosecutor in the next phase. The prosecutor will receive the schedules of unused material as well as the total number of records and how many can be supplied by the first time limit. Thereafter agree on a time-scale for the delivery of phase two and then move into phase three.

31.22. Disclosure officers should use the search and count facility to inform the prosecutor of the total number of records that are being dealt with, how many have already been assessed in phase one, and how many are still outstanding. They should emphasise that the arrest of the suspect has in itself generated new actions and other material that has not yet been completed.

31.23. The prosecutor should avoid reference to 'phases' in documentation supplied to the defence.

Top of page

Assessing the material

31.24. The disclosure officer should refer to the earlier chapters of this manual for detailed guidance on how to schedule items of material. Each description should contain enough detail to allow the prosecutor to make an informed decision as to whether he or she needs to inspect the material before deciding whether it should be disclosed or not. Holmes2 requires the user to select from the following options:

  • Non-sensitive
  • Sensitive can be edited
  • Sensitive
  • Highly sensitive.

This material is recorded automatically onto the relevant MG6C or D.

31.25. Much routine material has small parts that are sensitive. Most actions and messages will fall into this category as they contain personal details such as the address and telephone numbers of witnesses. In these and other cases the sensitive part of the information or material can be blocked out and the rest put on the MG6C. (See guidance in this manual). The unedited version does not need to be scheduled on the MG6D.

31.26. Where any editing is not routine, decisions about editing documents should only be made after consultation between the disclosure officer and the prosecutor. The disclosure officer should consider using the note facility for this purpose.

31.27. Where the intention is to edit paragraphs or passages containing sensitive material other than personal details from a report etc, the disclosure officer should consider placing this material on both schedules.

31.28. When instructed to do so, Holmes2 removes highly sensitive material from all schedules. A separate highly sensitive schedule will need to be created (following chapter 9) by the disclosure officer. At the time of writing the Holmes 2 system is being looked at to see if it can produce highly sensitive schedules (marked with the relevant security marking) that remain under the control of the (deputy) disclosure officer.

31.29. Selecting any of the above sensitive options on the window invokes one or more of the PII examples in paragraph 6.12 of the Code of Practice.

The MG6E

31.30. Holmes2 is automated so that if the disclosure officer selects any of the options in 7.3 of the Code of Practice, a field will appear to be completed to explain why this material meets the disclosure test and needs to be brought to the attention of the prosecutor.

31.31. Record of first description - This is no longer included to be routinely revealed to the prosecutor on the MG6E because numerous descriptions are entirely consistent with later ones and therefore do not satisfy the disclosure test. (Although they will usually form part of the prosecution case, if admissible e.g. as a previous consistent statement by the identifying witness). However where they are not consistent they will satisfy the disclosure test and should be revealed to the prosecutor. The practical difficulty for the disclosure officer is how to recognise if the description is indeed the first record of that description. Unless the disclosure officer is sure that it is not the first record, he or she should treat all descriptions as if they are. Descriptions of suspects are likely to be recorded on:

  • Rough paper at the scene
  • Pocketbooks
  • Crime reports
  • MIR messages
  • Statements

The description itself could be scheduled as non-sensitive, part sensitive, sensitive or highly sensitive. Examples are as follows:

  • Non-sensitive - description recorded at the scene on a blank piece of paper
  • Part sensitive - a message completed in the incident room from a member of the public in which they describe the offender. The message contains the witnesses' address and telephone number.
  • Sensitive - officers on observations for a drugs operation witness and record details of the offender in a stabbing in their surveillance log. The drugs operation is sensitive and still ongoing.

31.32. Information provided by the accused - In the majority of cases the information provided by the accused will be evidence as it will normally consist of the accused's interview records, or conversations made on arrest, or in transit. There may be numerous relevant interviews that do not form part of the evidence but if relevant unused material they will be scheduled on the MG6C or D. Only if they meet the disclosure test will they be listed on the MG6E.

31.33. Material casting doubt on the reliability of a confession - This category covers any material that tends to show that the confession may be unreliable, examples may include psychiatric reports, forensic or pathology that is inconsistent with the confession and material suggesting there have been breaches of PACE.

31.34. Material casting doubt on the credibility and reliability of a witness - This category covers any material that is detrimental to the witness such as witnesses' previous convictions or rewards. If a witness has received or sought a reward, either directly or indirectly, this might satisfy the disclosure test and should be brought to the attention of the prosecutor via the MG6E. In such a case, the defence may infer that the witness has a vested interest in giving evidence and is not, therefore, impartial. Other examples include a witness who gives inconsistent versions of events or embellishes the facts. There is a distinction between a person who makes additional statements to clarify information and a person who changes their story. Witnesses can also be motivated to make false accusations.

31.35. The disclosure officer should be objective and fair and think from the defence point of view. It does not have to be a case breaking point: the defence may want to put small pieces of evidence together that might place doubt in the juries mind whether the person did it or not. Some examples of material that satisfies the disclosure test are:

  • outstanding forensic evidence (DNA, fingerprints etc.) that does not match the accused
  • information reports naming someone else as being the offender
  • witness statements placing the accused elsewhere at the material times
  • inconsistent accounts from key witnesses, particularly where they state they have seen nothing but later make a second statement with a different story.

31.36. The option 'None apply' can be chosen if the disclosure officer is satisfied that the material does not fall within any of the above categories mentioned in chapter 7, paragraph 7.3. It is advisable to start the scheduling process as soon as the enquiry commences to cope with the large volume of material generated.

31.37. Holmes2 is used in many enquiries where the identity of the offender is not known therefore it may be impossible to make a definite decision as to whether some material may satisfy the disclosure test or not in the early stages. In particular, information reports naming the person responsible may or may not be accurate. It is not uncommon to have a number of information reports each naming different suspects for the same offence. In this situation the disclosure officer should describe the material, show its location, sensitivity and apply any notes, before selecting the 'requires re-assessment' option. This will record the initial assessment but it will not move the record through to the next queue state, instead it will remain as 'ready for assessment' Once the identity of the offender is known the disclosure officer should be in a position to re-assess this material by conducting a search to retrieve all material dealt with in this way.

Top of page

Block entries

31.38. In some enquiries it may not be practicable to list each item of material separately as there may be many items of a similar or repetitive nature. These may be listed in block and described by quantity and generic title. The disclosure officer should be aware of block entries from the beginning so that material can be added to a block until they are ready to be printed. For example, copies of paper exhibits are entered into the system as other documents. These copy documents can be grouped together as they will be scheduled as exhibits in their own right. Clearly the facility can be used to group actions together, documents together etc. but the system cannot create a group of mixed documents, i.e. actions and documents.

31.39. It is important to remember that nothing should be added to a block entry once it has been submitted on a schedule. If additional material comes to notice, the disclosure officer should start a new block entry and submit this via another phase.

31.40. Disclosure officers need to ensure that they use this facility properly and only group together material that would have no added value if scheduled individually.

31.41. Material that satisfies the disclosure test should be scheduled individually.

31.42. Block entries should be used for all material types. If the disclosure officer is not sure whether it would be appropriate to create a particular block for a case they should speak to the prosecutor and explain how they propose to describe certain material. This will ensure that both parties are content with the approach adopted.

31.43. There are many examples of block entries, such as:

  • 2487 actions raised to obtain DNA swabs from individuals where in each case the swabs were taken and submitted to the FSS for analysis.
  • 267 actions raised to obtain statements from people seen on Operation Reunion, (the murder of Emma Peech). In each case the action result is recorded as statement and Personal Descriptive Form taken. No other information given. Each of the documents taken have been considered for disclosure and listed on the appropriate schedules.
  • where a car is seen near to the murder scene and a partial registration number is taken, a VODS check may generate 400 actions. These actions may eventually be written off if the user of the vehicle is traced and eliminated. The disclosure officer should check all the filed actions and providing they do not offer further information in the result they could be blocked together. They would need to be described properly, for example, "399 actions raised to trace the driver of the green Rover vehicle seen outside the hairdressers in Erdington High St. The driver has since been traced as John Smith see statement 42. These actions were either not completed in light of Smith's statement or detail other people seen and eliminated, none of which were in the area at the material times".
  • in a hi-jacking case where boarding cards have been created as other documents. The list of passengers would be scheduled in its own right therefore there is no value listing boarding cards individually, they could be listed as 327 boarding cards relating to British Airways flight BA741.
  • 38 actions raised to obtain PNC print outs of vehicles parked in vicinity of scene. Print outs obtained and submitted into incident room as OD's Exhibits are listed and scheduled in their own right. There is no need to list copy exhibits that have been created as other documents on the schedule as well. They are created as OD's for research purposes. Therefore the disclosure officer could create a block of copy exhibits and keep them in the 'for re-assessment' queue so that they can add to the block. Eventually this block could be assessed as not relevant removing it from the schedule.

The disclosure officer should consider liasing with the prosecutor who should advise whether they would prefer each action raised to obtain itemised billings listed individually or created as a block such as, "378 actions raised to obtain itemised billings. Billings obtained and submitted into incident room as other documents.

House-to-house material

31.44. House-to-house material is the only document type where the unique reference number is not generated by the system. The officer in charge of investigation for each incident has to decide whether the house-to-house material will be registered onto the Holmes2 system. Either the disclosure officer or a deputy should examine each item of material and any that satisfy disclosure test should be scheduled individually. The remaining material can normally be submitted as a block entry and should be described so that it is clear where the house to house has taken place.

Correspondence with the CPS

31.45. Correspondence or advice between the CPS and the police should not ordinarily be listed on either schedule, see chapter 5, paragraph 5.13.

Linked incidents

31.46. There may be a number of forces involved and it is recommended that each Lead investigator sign the Operational Memoranda of Understanding (OMOU) or disclosure agreement (at Annexes F and G respectively) between investigators to establish the lead investigator and disclosure roles, and follow guidance outlined in chapter 32.

Consideration of the defence statement and continuing review

31.47. By their nature many Holmes2 investigations will cover a vast amount of material and therefore the initial schedules are likely to be large and may run into a number of volumes. In view of this, once a defence statement is served, Holmes2 will generate a new MG6C and MG6D of only the material that has been identified by the disclosure officer as satisfying the test for disclosure. (Once the disclosure officer has assessed the unused material again). The MG6E in response to the defence statement will refer to these mini-schedules.

Top of page