The Daily Express, Vital data on 127,000 crooks lost in blunder

Friday, 22 August, 2008

DETAILS of up to 127,000 criminals have been lost in a major security scandal at the Home Office, the Daily Express can reveal.

A computer memory stick containing names, addresses and offences of more than 40,000 persistent offenders and every prisoner currently locked up has vanished.

The information watchdog yesterday said that mishandling such important data was a "toxic liability" and called the fiasco "deeply worrying".

The details were lost on Monday but the Home Office kept the blunder a secret and only admitted it yesterday when quizzed by journalists.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was not told for up to 24 hours.

Shadow police minister David Ruffley said: "This shambles proves the accidentprone Home Secretary hasn't even got a grip of what goes on in her own building.

"The Information Commissioner is being consulted about the prospect of some of these criminals asking to be rehoused and suing the Government under the Data Protection Act." The memory stick was lost by an employee working for consultants advising on the best way for information systems to track prolific offenders.

A Home Office spokesman said: "All transfer of data to the external contractor has been suspended pending investigation."