Home Office blames loss of 15,000 police records on 'coding error'

Home Secretary Priti Patel during a foot patrol with new police recruits around Bishop's Stortford,

Home secretary Priti Patel during a foot patrol with new police recruits around Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire - Credit: PA

The Home Office has confirmed that the records of more than 15,000 people were wiped from the Police National Computer (PNC) due to a "coding error".

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said that a total of 209,550 offence records relating to 112,697 individuals has been deleted from the PNC last month, which is run by the Home Office and used by forces across the UK. That included records of 15,089 people.

No 10 has now said the deletion was caused by a coding error on January 10. The data that was wiped included fingerprints, DNA, and arrest records.

The government hopes to contain the damage and that no records will be permanently lost.

Malthouse said that 99.5% of the deleted records were created before 2011, but also that restoration will take another 12 weeks.

MORE: Piers Morgan calls on Priti Patel to resign over missing crime records fiasco

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Labour were quick to question whether the deleted data could be restored. Shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said that even in the "best-case scenario" there will be a three-month period where criminals could potentially walk free due to a "dangerous lack" of police records. 

"This statement confirms many of the worst fears about the impact of this catastrophic data loss," the Thomas-Symonds said in a statement. "We do not trust a government with this appalling lack of leadership and grip will be able to rectify these huge errors. An independent review is welcome, but ministers need to take personal responsibility for this huge security breach."

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The government has appointed former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Hogan-Howe to investigate why the blunder occurred. He is due to report in March.

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