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Boris Johnson Says He Doesn’t Know How Many Investigations Were Compromised By Wiped Police Records

Boris Johnson Says He Doesn’t Know How Many Investigations Were Compromised By Wiped Police Records

Boris Johnson said Home Office officials were attempting to retrieve the data

3 min read

The prime minister has admitted to MPs that the government doesn’t know how many ongoing investigations have been affected by an IT error that saw as many as 403,000 records wiped from a police database.

Appearing at Prime Minister's Questions, Boris Johnson said the Home Office was “actively working” to assess the impact of the technical issue and that officials “hope very much that they'll be able to restore the data in question”.

Pushed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on exactly how many criminal investigations had been damaged by the error, Mr Johnson said: “We don't know how many cases might be frustrated as a result of what has happened.

“But I can tell you about 213,000 offence records, 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 person records are currently being investigated because they are the subject of this problem.”

It comes after The Times revealed last week that thousands of fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records had been inadvertently deleted from the Police National Computer (PNC) after they were accidentally flagged for deletion.

An internal investigation has since been launched into the incident, and policing minister Kit Malthouse told MPs that the Home Office was attempting to “reconcile” the data. 

“While any loss of data is unacceptable, I can say that other tried-and-tested law enforcement systems are in place which contain linked data and reports to support policing partners in their day-to-day efforts to keep us safe,” Malthouse told MPs on Monday. 

He added: “I will urge patience while we continue our rapid internal investigation and begin the recovery. I hope the House will appreciate that the task in front of us is a complex one.

“Public safety is the top priority of everyone working at the Home Office and I have full faith that Home Office engineers and our partners in the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the police forces across the country, who they are working with, are doing all they can to restore this data.

But, speaking in the Commons Wednesday, Sir Keir said he feared the breach could lead to “criminals not being caught and victims not getting justice”.

He said a letter from the National Police Chiefs Council “makes clear that [the data loss] includes data from criminals convicted of serious offences, it has impacted live police investigations already and it includes records, including DNA, marked for indefinite retention following the conviction for serious offences.”

The Home Secretary was also challenged on the incident earlier on Wednesday, telling Good Morning Britain that officials were “working night and day to bring these records back”. 

Asked by presenter Piers Morgan if she’d resign if the data was not recovered, she continued: “It's our imperative, and my imperative as well as home secretary, to keep the public safe and to find this data.”

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