Data rules 'undermine protection of children'

The Association of Chief Police Officers fiercely criticised the Government's Information Commissioner yesterday, accusing him of undermining the safety of children by ordering the destruction of important criminal intelligence.

It said that Richard Thomas had demanded police forces erase convictions for violence and allegations of sexual assault from computer and intelligence files in the interests of data protection and civil liberties. "He wants fewer offence details recorded on the police national computer, not more. The Police Service has indicated that this would inhibit the safety of vulnerable persons, children in particular, and the public in general."

But yesterday Mr Thomas condemned Humberside police's decision to delete records of serious allegations made against Ian Huntley as "astonishing". After Ian Huntley, 29, was convicted of murdering Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, it was revealed that hehad already faced sex allegations, several involving girls. Humberside police insisted it was abiding by the Data Protection Act when it deleted details of unproven attacks.

In a statement to the inquiry investigating why Huntley was given a job with children, Mr Thomas, said: "The information that was deleted from the Humberside criminal intelligence system appears to be of such obvious value for the prevention of crime that I find the decision to delete to be astonishing."