Home Office says engineers working to restore lost police records

16 January 2021, 18:38

Home Secretary Priti Patel said "public safety is number one priority"
Home Secretary Priti Patel said "public safety is number one priority". Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Home Office has said that engineers are working to restore hundreds of thousands of police records that were accidentally lost from the national database.

Hundreds of thousands of fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records were accidentally wiped from police databases because of "human error" and "defective code".

Initially some 150,000 records were said to have been lost, but it has emerged the number is far higher than first thought at around 400,000.

Officers are said to be working "at pace" to recover the data and the incident is not thought to have put public safety at risk, according to an initial assessment.

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse confirmed Home Office engineers are working throughout the weekend to restore the lost data.

The Home Office said a "fast time review" identified the problem and corrected it "so it cannot happen again".

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse made a statement on the errors
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse made a statement on the errors. Picture: PA

In a statement, Ms Patel said: "Home Office engineers continue to work to restore data lost as a result of human error during a routine housekeeping process earlier this week.

"Public safety is the number one priority of everyone within the Home Office, and I would like to thank the data engineers working to restore these records.

"I continue to be in regular contact with the team, and working with our policing partners, we will provide an update as soon as we can."

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: "We continue to work closely with the police to rectify this issue and I want to thank both Home Office staff and policing partners for their ongoing efforts.

"As I’ve said, the affected records apply to cases where individuals were arrested and then released with no further action, and we are working to recover the affected records as a priority.

"While we do so, the Police National Computer is functioning and the police are taking steps to mitigate any impact."

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On Saturday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the Home Secretary to "take responsibility" for the mistake.

Sir Keir, who was once head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said it was a "really serious situation".

"Having worked in criminal justice for many, many years, having prosecuted every case in England and Wales for five years, I know just how important that information is," he said.

"Some of these [records] now involve live cases, investigations which are going on now so this isn't just a historic record, it's a record that is relevant or some of them are relevant to ongoing investigations and the home secretary needs to take responsibility for that.

"At the very least, she should be in parliament on Monday making a statement about this: explaining it, giving the full facts and facing questions from members of parliament. And that's the least we expect from the home secretary."

The Home Office said "no records of criminal or dangerous persons have been deleted" and "no further records can be deleted".