Labour demands answers after police data accidentally wiped

Trevor Marshallsea, PA
·2-min read

Labour is demanding answers from Home Secretary Priti Patel after 150,000 arrest records were accidentally wiped from police databases last week.

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

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

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has called on Ms Patel to take responsibility for the blunder and provide clarity over its impact.

“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,” Mr Thomas-Symonds said in a statement.

“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.”

Coronavirus – Tue Jan 12, 2021
Labour is calling for Home Secretary Priti Patel to provide clarity over the data blunder (Leon Neal/PA)

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.