British police are being asked to explain, after a database containing 150,000 police records has been reportedly lost after it was accidentally deleted.

According to the Times newspaper, the mistake is so serious that offenders could go free, after the missing data is said to include fingerprint, DNA and arrest histories.

It is reported that the Home Office said the lost entries related to people who were arrested and then released without further action. But the error means that biometric evidence left at crime scenes will not be flagged up on the Police National Computer (PNC).

Deleted database

The Times also reported that the software error also threw the UK’s visa system into disarray. Indeed, the processing of applications was suspended for two days.

The Police National Computer stores data to help police conducting investigations. It also provides real-time checks on people, vehicles and crimes, as well as whether suspects are wanted for any unsolved offences.

It seems the mistake happened when the database was mistakenly flagged for deletion.

The Home Office reportedly insisted that no records of criminal or dangerous persons had been deleted.

“The technical issue with the Police National Computer has been resolved, and we are working at pace with law enforcement partners to assess its impact,” the Home Office is reported by the Guardian as saying in a statement.

“The issue related to people arrested and released where no further action had been taken and no records of criminal or dangerous persons have been deleted,” it added. “No further records can be deleted.”

Policing minister, Kit Malthouse, also said that officials were “working at pace” to recover the 150,000 arrest records.

“A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again,” said Malthouse. “The Home Office, NPCC [National Police Chiefs’ Council] and other law enforcement partners are working at pace to recover the data.”

“While the loss relates to individuals who were arrested and then released with no further action, I have asked officials and the police to confirm their initial assessment that there is no threat to public safety,” he reportedly added. “I will provide further updates as we conclude our work.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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