Home Office blames 'housekeeping process' for deleting 400,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest records police database

HOME Office officials have blamed 'housekeeping processes' after 400,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest records were lost in an unprecedented technical blunder.

Cops and officials are scrambling to recover the data – but there are fears it has been permanently erased.

The vital records were wiped from the national police database during a weekly data purge.

The issue has thrown the UK visa system into chaos, while there are fears some criminals could walk free because biometric evidence left at crime scenes will not be flagged up.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has admitted that he's "not entirely sure" if the mistake was having an effect on policework.

But Naveed Malik, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), says cops are already aware of a investigation which has been "potentially impeded" by the issue.

In a letter to chief constables and police and crime commissioners that has been leaked to The Times, Mr Malik said the wiped records include huge volumes of important information.

Some 213,000 offence records, details of 175,000 arrests and 15,000 ‘person records’ have disappeared, he said.

Most of the data relates to suspects who have been arrested and released with no further action to be taken.

However, 26,000 DNA records and 30,000 fingerprint files, some related to convicted criminals, are also gone.

Mr Malthouse has issued a further statement on the fiasco today – after initially pinning it on "human error".

He said: "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.

"The Home Office, 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 police to confirm their initial assessment that there is no threat to public safety.

"I will provide further updates as we conclude our work."

Former Cumbria police chief Stuart Hyde said the loss was a "risk to public safety".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "In terms of the risk this creates, clearly some of those people may be involved in subsequent offending and could only be identified through either fingerprints and DNA when they were subsequently brought to light."

Labour MPs demanded answers from Priti Patel after the issue was revealed.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "The Home Secretary must take responsibility for this serious problem. "'She must – urgently – make a statement about what has gone wrong, the extent of the issue, and what action is being taken to reassure the public. Answers must be given.

"This is an extraordinarily serious security breach that presents huge dangers for public safety."

Earlier this week, told The Times that the records were accidentally wiped during a weekly “weeding” session to expunge data last week.

Deliberate activity, such as a cyber attack, was ruled out.

The finger print and DNA data was lost because the databases holding them was connected to the Home Office-owned PNC.

Home Office officials are working to establish the impact of the error, which will likely take several days, while senior police and officials have held ‘gold group’ crisis meetings.

The PNC holds cast amounts of intelligence and allows real-time checks on people and vehicles.

And the data loss comes just months after an engineer unplugged it, causing the whole system to go down for 10 hours.

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