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A recent data handling error has left thousands of arrest records lost, after they were accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer (PNC).
The mistake represents an extremely severe blow to police operations, which could pose a threat to public safety. While initial statements set the number of lost records at 150,000, it has since been reported that as many as 400,000 crime records could be affected.
As one of our major national institutions, it is worrying to see that the police force has been hit by data loss of this scale. There is no room for such errors in an organisation responsible for protecting so much important information, which is one of its key weapons in detecting and arresting suspects.
It is said that the data loss occurred as a result of “human error”, when “defective code” was introduced into a routine maintenance procedure of the PNC database. As a result, thousands of records were mistakenly flagged to be deleted, causing them to be removed from the system before they were reviewed.
The arrest records lost in this wide-reaching deletion are understood to relate people who have been arrested and subsequently released without further action. Fingerprint and DNA data is also understood to be affected.
The police service has a right and a duty to retain details of arrests made for a given period of time, even if these arrests do not ultimately lead to prosecution. This routine procedure often gives investigators access to information that may be of use in future enquiries.
As such, the loss of police records could impede future investigations, as officers may be unable to compare DNA and fingerprints using evidence from crime scenes detailed in the deleted records. In fact, deputy chief constable Naveed Malik has reportedly stated that some of the deleted DNA data is linked to convicted criminals who committed serious offences, which suggests that the potential risk to public safety could be significant.
The information loss is also of broader concern when considering the data protection responsibilities of the police force. It has been suggested that the system error may also have disrupted the deletion of records that should have been destroyed, meaning that police could be unlawfully retaining information in a way that is contrary to data privacy rights.
Only time will tell how far the implications of this police data loss incident may reach. The arrest records lost from the PNC could represent an invaluable resource to crime detection and to prosecution. If the records cannot be recovered, the loss could be a huge setback to the police.
Your Lawyers -The Data Leak Lawyers – are leading specialists in data breach law, and we have witnessed first-hand the damage that can be caused by human errors in data handling. ‘Human error’ is no excuse for a data protection breach of any scale, which is why we help victims of data breaches to claim the compensation they deserve.
For free, no-obligation advice from our expert team, please do not hesitate to contact us here.
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