Pressure mounts on the home secretary, Priti Patel, to take responsibility after 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest records were accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer, a system that shares criminal information across the UK, during a weekly ‘weeding’ session to extract data.
The deletion of this data means that offenders could go free due to evidence not being flagged in connection with evidence from crime scenes. However, the Home Office have stated that the data that has been deleted does not belong to criminals or any other such dangerous persons, rather, it is the data of people who were arrested and released without any further action being taken and people who were acquitted from court. The Telegraph reports that the loss of data would still have a negative effect in that police may not be able to reopen investigations in certain cases, should more evidence emerge. In addition, the loss of these records could potentially hinder future investigations as the DNA or fingerprint evidence would not be able to be cross-checked against evidence from other cases.
A letter sent to the National Police Chief’s Council last week, shows the scale of records effected:’In PNC approximately 213,000 offence records, 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 person record have potentially been deleted in error. In terms of understanding the potential linkage between records, a one-person record can have multiple arrest records and one arrest record can have multiple offences linked to it,’ reports the Guardian.
The Home Office have said that they are working together with the police to assess the impact of the loss of records: ‘We are now working very quickly with policing partners and within the Home Office to try and recover the data and assess the full extent of the problem.’
Shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, urged Priti Patel to take accountability and to be transparent about the impact the error had, and what it means for the public. ‘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… it’s now vital that she makes an urgent statement outlining the true scale of the issue… yet again, Conservative incompetence is putting people’s safety at risk.’