Kit Malthouse – 2021 Statement on the Deletion of PNC Records

The statement made by Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Crime and Policing, in the House of Commons on 8 February 2021.

Further to my statement to the House on the 18 January, this is an update on the work being carried out to recover the records deleted from the Police National Computer (PNC) in error.

The Home Office is taking forward a four-phase plan to respond to the incident and recover the data:

Phase 1 has been completed and involved using code to identify and extract the complete list of what had been deleted;

Phase 2 has also been completed and involved analysis to establish an accurate list of the affected systems and records for each force;

Phase 3 is ongoing involves recovering the data from the PNC and the IDENT1 (Fingerprint) and National DNA systems;

Phase 4 will involve work to ensure we are deleting any data that should have been deleted as usual when this incident first began.

Phases 1 and 2 of the work found that a total of 209,550 offence records have been wrongly deleted, which are associated to 112,697 persons’ records. Of these 15,089 individuals have had their data deleted in totality. Our analysis has identified that only 195 full fingerprint records were deleted, with all these records relating to cases over 10-years old. We have also confirmed that no records of convictions have been deleted. Our analysis shows that 99.5% of the deleted records were created prior to 2011.

Phase 3 is now well under way and technicians are confident that all the data that has been deleted can be restored. Work to recover that data is moving forward as quickly as is possible, but it is vital that the data is restored safely to protect the integrity of the data. Our current assessment suggests that the work will take approximately 12 more weeks to complete, though clearly, we will accelerate this if we possibly can.

While the data is incomplete, there is the possibility that law enforcement partners will not have access to records and information that could help progress their inquiries and investigations.

Outlined below are details of such mitigation activities:

First, they can search the Police National Database (PND). This is a national intelligence database that holds records of arrests of individuals and contains information that will allow law enforcement partners to judge whether there is biometric information or other key evidence missing from the affected systems. If missing data records are identified, then the investigating officers can request copies of biometric samples and arrest records from the owning organisations.

Second, forces have a wide variety of local systems in place to log calls and to maintain custody records. These are frequently used as the primary system into which information is entered, before it is then integrated into PNC for national use.

Third, the police can also continue to search other relevant national databases, such as the violent offender and sex offender register.

Fourth, where an individual is suspected of a crime and the PNC confirms the existence of a duplicate set of fingerprints then officers can request the set of prints from the force who retain a hard copy.

Fifth, if the police have enough evidence and they believe that the DNA of a suspect is required but cannot find any records on the PNC or other systems, they can arrest suspects and collect their DNA in line with their powers.

Sixth, the Home Office, and our suppliers, have worked to make the incorrectly deleted DNA profiles available to policing while the full capability is restored. In order to deliver this mitigation, we have restored the DNA database backups to a temporary, secure location. We have made this data accessible to forces and national agencies this week and setup a business process has been created to enable matching in support of ongoing investigations. During this period all audit and legislative requirements will be met.

Finally, the Home Secretary and I have commissioned an external review led by Lord Hogan-Howe to ensure the necessary lessons are learned to avoid similar incidents in the future.

The review is expected to report by the middle of March. After the review has concluded and been considered by the Home Secretary, a summary will be placed in the Library of the House.

We will provide a further update to the House in due course.