Sunday, September 7, 2008

Data On 5,000 Justice Staff Lost

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="226" caption="Staff may be forced to relocate, the Prison Officers' Association has warned"]Staff may be forced to relocate, the Prison Officers Association has warned[/caption]

A portable hard drive holding details of up to 5,000 employees of the justice system including prison staff has been lost, the government has confirmed.

The details of employees of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales were lost by a private firm, EDS, in July 2007.

However, officials only realised the data was missing in July of this year.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has set up an inquiry into the loss, and is trying to establish why he was not told of it.

'Level of risk'

The loss of the data by the private computing firm was reported to the Prison Service in July, but Mr Straw was not informed of the problem until now, after a letter about the missing drive was passed to the News of the World newspaper.

In a statement, Mr Straw said: "I am extremely concerned about this missing data.

"I was informed of its loss at lunchtime today (Saturday) and have ordered an urgent inquiry into the circumstances and the implications of the data loss and the level of risk involved.

"I have also asked for a report as to why I was not informed as soon as my department became aware of this issue.

"My officials are also in touch with EDS as part of these processes. We take these matters extremely seriously."

The Ministry of Justice has contacted the Information Commissioner's Office about the incident and will update it on Monday.

The latest disclosure comes just weeks after the details of thousands of criminals, held on a computer memory stick, were lost by a private contractor.

Shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert said: "The records of prisoners have been lost already and now we discover that personal data about prison officers has gone too.

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"When was this incompetent government planning to own up to another data disaster - this time one which has put the security of thousands of its own employees at risk - and if, as they claim, they didn't know about this until now, who on earth is actually running the department?"

The Prison Officers' Association said the loss, which it had not been informed about, could end up costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.

National chairman Colin Moses said: "We are extremely concerned that not only has this data been lost, but that the Prison Service appear to have tried to conceal this serious breach in security.

"It is a breach that we believe could ultimately cost the taxpayer millions and millions of pounds, because, if the information lost is personal and sensitive, it may well mean staff having to move prisons, move homes and relocate their families."

Source: BBC

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