According to The Times, 150,000 arrest records were accidentally erased – including fingerprint, DNA and arrest histories
Today (15 January), Home Secretary Priti Patel is under pressure to explain how 150,000 arrest records were deleted. This number includes fingerprint and DNA information, which is often used by law enforcement authorities to find suspects.
The department said that a weekly data-clearing procedure went wrong. This mishap feels similar in tone to the Excel file issue, that led to Public Health England losing 16,000 cases in their Test and Trace system. Information fell off the map, exacerbating infection rates through lack of prevention.
What does this mean for the future of crime?
If the 150,000 arrest records remain missing, then it will be difficult for law enforcement authorities to investigate crimes in the future – as they will be missing crucial information about potential suspects, connections and motives.
The UKRI found that in the UK, 75% of ex-inmates reoffend within nine years of release, and 39.3% within the first twelve months. This means that access to existing records of crime could make the difference between catching the suspect or losing them.
In turn, this would create the opportunity for an individual to continue committing crimes until they are newly picked-up by the police.
A source explained to the Times: “This is potentially catastrophic. If the data has been deleted, police won’t be able to connect evidence at crime scenes to the perpetrator.”
‘A standard housekeeping process’
Kit Malthouse, the Crime and Policing Minister, commented: “Earlier this week, a standard housekeeping process that runs on the Police National Computer deleted a number of records in error. A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again.”
He further suggests that the lost information is to do with individuals “who were released with no further action” to be taken.
‘It’s not good enough’
Responding to this statement, shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds said: ““It’s not good enough for the home secretary to hide behind her junior minister on this when there has been such a major security breach on her watch.
“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.”
According to the original report by The Times, the loss of information has impacted the Visa application system. The processing of visas was then stopped for two days, as the Home Office attempted to get the data loss situation under control.