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Wednesday, 22 March 2023
What the loss of records from the Police National Computer means
The PNC is a system that stores and shares criminal records information across the UK.

Jamie GriersonThe kind of data that was accidentally deleted and what it could have been used for

Fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records have been accidentally deleted from databases linked to the Police National Computer (PNC).

Here we take a look at what the PNC is used for and the implications of the technical blunder.

What is the Police National Computer?

The PNC is a system that stores and shares criminal records information across the UK, according to the criminal records office Acro.

Law enforcement agencies use it to access information that will support national, regional and local investigations, Acro says.

A person’s PNC record contains their name, date of birth, sex and ethnic appearance and an arrest summons number, as well as details of successful convictions. Information about DNA and fingerprints is also held on the PNC.

How is the information used?

According to the College of Policing, the PNC provides “real-time checks” on people, vehicles, crimes and property.

In addition, other “non-police organisations”, have limited access to information held on the PNC in order to help them fulfil their statutory functions. Organisations such as the Charity Commission for England and Wales, government departments, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Prison Service, the NHS and UK border operations.

How long is information kept?

An individual’s record on the PNC is retained until their 100th birthday, including if they were released with no further action after an arrest.

DNA and fingerprints are held indefinitely for those convicted of a crime, except for first-time offenders who are children.

If a person is not convicted and released without further action, the DNA and fingerprints could be held for three years before deletion.What has been lost?

According to a letter sent to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, more than 400,000 offence records, arrest records and person records may have been deleted, as well as tens of thousands of fingerprint records and DNA records, some of which had been marked for “indefinite retention”.

What is the impact?

The impact is significant because some offenders are ultimately charged and convicted because their fingerprints and DNA, accessed via the PNC, are kept and cross-checked against material found at other crime scenes.

source: Jamie Grierson