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We’ve found them! Govt reinstates records previously missing from the Police National Computer

November scripting error havoc finally fixed

Around three weeks late — a fairly good result for anything to do with the UK government's Home Office IT — technology professionals have been able to recover all of the 413,000 records of evidence deleted from the Police National Computer (PNC) in January this year.

Kit Malthouse, minister for crime and policing, said in a statement to Parliament yesterday, the data that was wrongly deleted from the PNC - which included fingerprint and DNA databases - had been fully recovered and returned to the affected databases.

“Over 99 per cent of the data deleted from the PNC was recovered within the previously announced timeline. The remaining records required manual insertion into the PNC which is a more time-consuming process. Intensive work has been undertaken with our colleagues at the Criminal Records Office (ACRO) over recent weeks and I can confirm that this work is now also complete,” he said.

Malthouse had promised on 8 February that all the records would be recovered in 12 weeks, giving him a self-imposed deadline of around 3 May.

At the time, a technical investigation revealed a total of 209,550 offence records associated with 112,697 persons' records had been wrongly deleted.

The minister said yesterday that the Home Office was not aware of any operations that were “significantly adversely affected” by this incident. However, the National Police Chief’s Council was leading work to understand the full impact now that the data has been fully restored, he said.

Malthouse said no records of convictions had been deleted as a result of this incident, and deletions only related to records in cases that occurred prior to 2015.

He said the Home Office was “engaged intensively” with the PNC to “strengthen checks” on any future updates to law enforcement systems, including “the development and introduction of new processes and operating models to bolster the checks to ensure an error like this one does not happen again.”

Together with Home Secretary Priti Patel, Malthouse said he had commissioned an independent review, led by an external panel chaired by Lord Hogan-Howe, to investigate how the teams responsible for the PNC managed to delete the records. That work is now complete and the report is set to be placed in the libraries of the House of Commons and Lords.

Malthouse said the Home Office and the police had read all the recommendations and were responding to them.

In February, Malthouse admitted the scripting error which deleted the records was introduced to the PNC in November but did not come to light until 10 January.

The loss of police records from the PNC – a Fujitsu BS2000/OSD SE700-30 mainframe based at a data centre in Hendon, London – attracted public attention at the time and led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitting he did not know how many active police investigations the data loss had affected. ®

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