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Officers ‘working at pace’ to recover 150,000 accidentally wiped police records

By PA News

The policing minister has said officers are “working at pace” to recover 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records that were accidentally wiped from police databases.

Kit Malthouse told Home Office officials and police officers to confirm their initial assessment that “there is no threat to public safety” from the blunder over records of suspects released without further action.

But a former police chief warned the “very large” deletion from the Police National Computer (PNC) risks officers failing to identify suspects who have been released but go on to offend.

I have asked officials and the police to confirm their initial assessment that there is no threat to public safety
Kit Malthouse

Labour said Home Secretary Priti Patel should take responsibility for the “extraordinarily serious security breach” that “presents huge dangers for public safety”.

Her junior minister said the records were deleted during a “standard housekeeping process” that runs on the PNC.

“A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again,” Mr Malthouse said.

Priti Patel (Leon Neal/PA)
Priti Patel (Leon Neal/PA)

“The Home Office, NPCC (National Police Chiefs’ Council) and other law enforcement partners are working at pace to recover the data.

“While the loss relates to individuals who were arrested and then released with no further action, I have asked officials and the police to confirm their initial assessment that there is no threat to public safety.”

The deletions would appear to impinge on police power to reopen investigations should more evidence come to light in certain cases.

Former Cumbria police chief Stuart Hyde said the loss represents a “very large proportion” of the around 650,000 people arrested each year and is a “risk to public safety and a risk to the safeguarding of vulnerable people across the country”.

“In terms of the risk this creates clearly some of those people may be involved in subsequent offending and could only be identified through either fingerprints and DNA when they were subsequently brought to light. That may be only a few people, a handful, but nonetheless it still represents a risk,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“They (police officers) should expect that the providers of the software ensure that there isn’t a system that can automatically wipe what is essentially nearly a quarter of custody delivered DNA and fingerprints in one quick go.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said it was an “extraordinarily serious security breach” that “presents huge dangers for public safety”.

“It’s not good enough for the Home Secretary to hide behind her junior minister on this when there has been such a major security breach on her watch,” he added.

“It’s now vital that she makes an urgent statement outlining the true scale of the issue, when ministers were informed and what the plan is to provide public reassurance.”

The Times, which first reported the data loss, said crucial intelligence about suspects had vanished because of the blunder, and Britain’s visa system was thrown into disarray with the processing of applications being suspended for two days.

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