The UK government has announced an investigation into as many as 400,000 arrest records that were accidentally deleted from a police database in the UK.
More than 4000,000 arrest records containing finger prints, DNA tests and case files were accidentally deleted from a database belonging to the police force, with reports emerging that the unintentional deletion of files was the result of human error.
Those reports have said that the UK’s government ability to process travel visas has also been suspended for a number of days.
It was originally reported that the accidental deletion of files impacted around 150,000 records.
A report said at the time that “the error could potentially allow offenders to escape justice as biometric evidence captured from crime scenes will no longer be flagged on the Police National Computer (PNC),” related to 150,000 files.
Now, however, there are reports stating that as many as 400,000 records have been deleted, with the National Police Chiefs Council publishing a statement.
That statement reads that the accidental deletion of files may have impacted 213,000 offence records, 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 person records that were stored on the system.
The PNC database is said to be accessed more than 600 million times each year by law enforcement investigating criminal activity.
A spokesperson from the NPCC has issued a statement saying that “we are aware of an issue with the Police National Computer and are working closely with government to understand the potential operational impacts and resolve them at pace.”
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A source close to the matter has told the media that 400,000 of the arrest records that were accidentally deleted from the police database were unintentionally wiped during a weekly data removal process.
This data removal process is likely undertaken each week to reduce the size of the PNC database and remove unwanted files or those unrelated to ongoing or past police matters.
The Times is reporting that “crucial intelligence about suspects,” had been removed in the accidental deletion of police files.
The UK Home Office has said that no records on criminals or persons of interest had been deleted, and that the deleted data pertained to those who had been arrested, and released without charges being pressed by the police.
The UK’s Minister for Policing, Kit Malthouse has issued a statement saying that the department was “working at pace” to recover the 400,000 arrest records that were accidentally deleted from the police database.
“A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again,” Malthouse said. “The Home Office, NPCC [National Police Chief’s Council] and other law enforcement partners are working at pace to recover the data.”
Malthouse continued to explain that “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,” Malhouse concluded.
These comments have been seemingly rebuked by a statement from the NPCC’s deputy chief constable, Naveed Malik who said that “we are aware of a couple of instances of ‘near misses’ for serious crimes where a biometric match to an offender was not generated as expected but the offender was identified through matches between scenes.”
“However, in these circumstances, without a direct match report to the subject, it may be more challenging for police to progress to an interview or arrest.”
Labor’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer has said that “we heard that 150,000 had been deleted, now we hear that 400,000 records have been deleted.”
“That’s an increasing number, which is a huge concern, but equally of concern what we learn is that some of these now involve live cases, investigations that are going on now.”
The opposition Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds has issued a statement saying that “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 Shadow Home Secretary added.
Infosecurity Magazine is writing that “the loss of data follows the removal of 40,000 alerts regarding European criminals from the PNC with the UK’s Brexit departure from the European Union.”