Nick Thomas-Symonds – 2021 Letter to Priti Patel Over Home Office Data Loss

The letter from Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Shadow Home Secretary, to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, on 16 January 2021.

Dear Priti,

I write in regard to the deeply worrying revelations that 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records, held on the Police National Computer, have been deleted.

This is incredibly serious and it is unacceptable that the news emerged as a result of a media story, rather than a proactive statement from the Government.

As a result, I expect that you will be making a formal Oral Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons on Monday 18 January 2021.

There are grave issues posed by this situation. As a result, there are a number of vital questions that must be answered urgently:

– When were ministers first made aware of this data breach?

– Have local police forces been informed of potential impacts of their area and ongoing investigations?

– What mitigating steps are being taken to retrieve lost data?

– What measures have been put in place to identify the cause of the breach and institute safeguards to ensure such a mistake cannot be repeated?

– Have conversations been held with policing to assess whether operations or investigations have been undermined, including on counter-terrorism?

– What guidance has been issued to police and local authority safeguarding teams who often rely on data such as that deleted to manage risk?

– Has there been an impact on the work of gang units and county lines operations?

– Is there a breakdown available of the types of records that were deleted, including by crime type and geographical area?

– Will this breach result in the need for DNA profiles to be regenerated?

There have also been reports from police sources that warnings have previously been made about problems with PNC systems: can you confirm if this is the case and whether the issues raised related to these failings?

It is vital that as Home Secretary you show personal responsibility and leadership on an issue as serious as this. Anything less is an abdication of responsibility.

Public safety has been put at risk yet again by unacceptable incompetence. The reality is that these are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a pattern of deeply worrying mistakes at the Home Office under this Government’s leadership.

I await your urgent response.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP

Shadow Home Secretary