Incompetent Home Office "accidentally" DELETES 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest records

The Home Office has accidentally deleted 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest records from a national police database during a weekly data purge. 

The history records were deleted in a technological blunder and could allow offenders to go free as evidence from crime scenes will not be flagged on the Police National Computer (PNC), reported The Times. 

The Home Office said in a statement it was working with police to 'assess the impact' of the glitch, which reportedly occurred by accident during a weekly 'weeding' session to expunge data.

It said no records of criminals or dangerous persons had been deleted, and that the wiped records were those of people arrested and released when no further action was taken.

However, the omissions would appear to at least impinge on police power to reopen investigations should more evidence come to light in certain cases.

He said in a statement: 'The Home Secretary must take responsibility for this serious problem. 

'She must – urgently – make a statement about what has gone wrong, the extent of the issue, and what action is being taken to reassure the public. Answers must be given.

This is an extraordinarily serious security breach that presents huge dangers for public safety.

'The incompetence of this shambolic Government cannot be allowed to put people at risk, let criminals go free and deny victims justice.'

The Times said 'crucial intelligence about suspects' had vanished because of the blunder, and that Britain's visa system was thrown into disarray, with the processing of applications having been suspended for two days.

The Home Office statement said: 'The technical issue with the Police National Computer has been resolved, and we are working at pace with law enforcement partners to assess its impact.

'The issue related to people arrested and released where no further action had been taken and no records of criminal or dangerous persons have been deleted. No further records can be deleted.'

The Home Office is understood to believe there have been no risks concerning visa processing. 

Susan Hall, a specialist in data protection and partner with national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, told MailOnline: 'While any personal data loss on this scale is bad, the loss of fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records from the Police National Computer is shocking.

'Data surrounding investigation and prosecution of crime forms a specific type of data which means the holder has a particular duty in the way they store and handle it.

'Despite the Home Office framing the loss of this data as 'no biggie', it is in fact a very serious incident and casts profound doubt on the culture of data management in the organisation as a whole; accidental mass deletions should not occur if the principles of data protection by design and data protection by default are being upheld.

'People who hold data, particularly this kind of data, are under express duties to hold it securely and retain it for no longer than necessary. 

'If indeed the deletion of these 150,000 records is a minor incident, as they would like us to believe, then the question is raised around whether that data should have been held in the first place. Either way the error is a very bad example to set.' 

Minister for Policing, Kit Malthouse, said: 'Earlier this week, a standard housekeeping process that runs on the Police National Computer deleted a number of records in error. 

'A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again.

'The Home Office, NPCC 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.

'I will provide further updates as we conclude our work.'  

Source: Daily Mail

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