Calls for Essex MP Priti Patel to explain police records blunder

Home Secretary Priti Patel said those who contravened restrictions needed to face the consequences. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Calls have been made for Essex MP Priti Patel to explain the blunder - Credit: Archant

Home secretary and Essex MP Priti Patel is being urged to provide answers after 150,000 arrest records were accidentally wiped from police databases last week.

According to the Times, fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records were deleted in a technological blunder, which could allow offenders to go free because evidence from crime scenes will not be flagged on the Police National Computer (PNC).

The Home Office said it was working with police to "assess the impact" of the glitch, which reportedly occurred by accident during a weekly "weeding" session to expunge data.

It said no records of criminals or dangerous persons had been deleted, and that the wiped records were those of people arrested and released when no further action was taken.

However, the deletions would appear to at least impinge on police power to reopen investigations should more evidence come to light in certain cases.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been criticised by the outgoing permanent secretary at the Home Offic

MP for Witham Priti Patel - Credit: PA

Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has called on Ms Patel, who is MP for Witham, to take responsibility for the blunder and provide clarity over its impact.

"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," Mr Thomas-Symonds said. 

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

The Times said "crucial intelligence about suspects" had vanished because of the blunder, and that Britain's visa system was thrown into disarray, with the processing of applications having been suspended for two days.

The Home Office statement said: "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 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. No further records can be deleted."

The Home Office is understood to believe there have been no risks concerning visa processing.