The Prime Minister said it was “outrageous” that police records had been possibly deleted from a major crime-fighting database and called any loss of data “unacceptable”.
Boris Johnson came under fire at Prime Minister’s Questions from the leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, about the wipe-out of data from the police national computer (PNC).
An estimated 213,000 offence records, 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 records on people were potentially incorrectly deleted as a result of a defective code.
Mr Johnson told the House of Commons that the Government did not yet know how many criminal investigations had been “frustrated” by the incident but said the Home Office was working “around the clock” to find the lost information.
Sir Keir said a letter from the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealed that the lost information included 26,000 DNA records and 30,000 fingerprint samples.
The Labour leader said police bosses found that “DNA marked for indefinite retention following the conviction for serious offences” were among those that were now inaccessible.
The former director of public prosecutions accused the Prime Minister of failing to get to “the bottom of the basic questions” about the loss of police data.
Mr Johnson replied: “Of course it is outrageous that any data should have been lost but at the moment, we are trying … to retrieve that data.
“I can tell you that people are working around the clock – I’ve been briefed on this by both my staff and the policing minister – on this issue.
“Any loss of data is of course unacceptable.”
The terse exchange came after Home Secretary Priti Patel said criminals would not get away with serious crimes as a result of the PNC data blunder.
The Cabinet minister said it was not yet known whether any of the information had been permanently lost.
“We don’t know because there are multiple records across multiple systems around offences and individuals,” she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Asked whether some criminals would “get away with” offences due to the potential losses, Ms Patel said: “No, it is not about serious criminals getting away with anything.
“Multiple records are held on the same individuals on the same crimes on other profiling systems as well.”
She told the BBC that officials could be instructed to re-submit the entries manually.
“The police national computer is working with law enforcement partners, so data can be uploaded and police and security people, the police in particular, can use that system,” Ms Patel added.
“We will absolutely provide updates once we know what has happened in terms of retrieving data.
“This will take time because it is a coding error, it is a coding system error that materialised.
“I’m also clear with Home Office engineers and technicians that if we have to do manual uploads from other systems, that is effectively what we will do and that will potentially take time, but that is another option for us right now.”