UK Accidentally Deletes 150k Arrest Records

The UK government is investigating a technical issue that led to 150,000 arrest records' being accidentally wiped from nationwide police databases. 

The unintentional erasure, reported initially by The Times, is believed to have been caused by human error and defective code that earmarked the wrong files for deletion.

Over 150,000 fingerprint records, DNA records, and arrest history records were lost as a result of the glitch. One source told The Times 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). 

The error also impacted Britain's visa system, causing the processing of applications to be suspended for two days. 

Sources told The Times that the records were accidentally wiped during one of the weekly data expunging acts known as "weeding" sessions. 

The newspaper reported that “crucial intelligence about suspects” had vanished as a result of the incident. However, the Home Office said that no records of criminals or dangerous persons had been deleted and that the lost data related to individuals who had been arrested and then released without charge.

UK Minister for Policing Kit Malthouse said officials were “working at pace” to attempt the recovery of the lost records.

He said: “A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again. The Home Office, NPCC [National Police Chiefs’ Council] 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.”

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “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 loss of the data follows the removal of 40,000 alerts regarding European criminals from the PNC with the UK's Brexit departure from the European Union.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?