Home Office admits 'coding error' wiped 15,000 police records

The Labour Party says the figures confirm "the worst fears about the impact of this catastrophic data loss"

The Home Office has confirmed that the records of more than 15,000 people were accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer (PNC). 

The incident was first revealed last month, but it was only on Monday that government revealed how many records had been erased. That's according to The Guardian, which received a statement from policing minister Kit Malthouse confirming the extent of the data loss. 

A total of 209,550 offence records that related to 112,697 individuals were been deleted from the PNC. The entire records of 15,089 people were also erased from the system, which is operated by the Home Office and used by police forces across the UK.

The data included crucial evidence such as fingerprints, DNA and arrest records, but the government has said it hopes to contain the damage and that none of the records will be lost permanently. Malthouse said that 99.5% of the deleted records were created before 2011, but also that restoration will take another 12 weeks. 

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The Labour Party 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."

The incident has been attributed to human error and a coding issue. The government has appointed former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Hogan-Howe to fully investigate the mishap. He is set to report his initial findings in March. 

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