Police Error Exposes Personal Data Of Crime Victims

Personal data and other information about and relating to victims of crime, witnesses and suspects has been mistakenly released by two police forces in their responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests. 

The Norfolk and Suffolk police force constabularies in England have said that they have mishandled and mistakenly released the sensitive data of victims, witnesses and suspects in cases including domestic abuse incidents, sexual offences, assaults, thefts and hate crime.

The police forces said the data of 1,230 people was included in files responding to freedom of information requests and has apologised.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said both forces had been placed under formal investigation, which could result in them facing fines. In a statement the forces said there was no evidence anyone had clicked on links to read the files.

It is the latest data disaster to hit policing, with blunders being admitted in the last week by the Northern Ireland police service the most serious, which has left officers fearing for their lives.

In a statement, police said: “Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies have identified an issue relating to a very small percentage of responses to freedom of information (FoI) requests for crime statistics, issued between April 2021 and March 2022. “A technical issue has led to some raw data belonging to the constabularies being included within the files produced in response to the FoI requests in question. The data was hidden from anyone opening the files, but it should not have been included... The data impacted was information held on a specific police system and related to crime reports. The data includes personal identifiable information on victims, witnesses and suspects, as well as descriptions of offences. It related to a range of offences, including domestic incidents, sexual offences, assaults, thefts and hate crime.”

Police said 1,230 people were affected and would be contacted by September. A specialist team of officers and staff have been diverted from their normal duties to deal with the data blunder and the fallout.

Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Police, Eamonn Bridger, who led the investigation on behalf of both forces, said “We would like to apologise that this incident occurred, and we sincerely regret any concern that it may have caused the people of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson, called on home secretary Suella Braverman to conduct an urgent review of data handling across all police forces. “Two data breaches in less than two months is simply unacceptable,” he said. “These errors can have chilling real-life consequences, and it’s disturbing to think that it is becoming routine.”

Any victims of the data breach will be contacted via letter, phone, and in some cases, face-to-face depending upon what information was impacted and what support is required. 

Suffolk Police:    ITV:    Independent:    Telegraph:   Guardian:    Politico:   Image: Kings Church Inetrnational

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