PSNI files found dumped in skip at a building site

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The Independent Online

A Northern Ireland politician has called for an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, after sensitive documents were found at a building site.

Upper Bann MP David Simpson said he wanted to discuss data handling practices within the PSNI following the discovery of a file containing background security checks on some 60 people this week. The DUP man said he was “horrified” that such sensitive details were dumped in a building site skip in Belfast city centre.

He said: “I am very concerned that this skip could have contained as many as 40 files which witnesses have indicated seemed to be of a similar nature. This is one of the worst data handling errors which I have ever witnessed and it demands serious action and answers by the PSNI about their data handling practices.

“The file contains background checks on just under 60 people. This means that their details, their partner’s details, their father and mother’s details, all previous addresses at which everyone listed on the form has lived and any criminal convictions must also be listed. These are personal details which should never be in the public domain.

“Amongst the most alarming details were those of people living in republican areas such as Strabane and Andersonstown and parts of Newry and Fermanagh. These people had applied for jobs in the PSNI whilst living in areas which are known as hotbeds of dissident republican activity.

“Indeed, the file even contained the shift pattern for a particular post in Newry police station.”

He added: “Those with responsibility for handling this data should be glad that the information fell into my hands and not into the hands of some dissident republican terrorist.

“I am calling on the Chief Constable to arrange an urgent meeting to discuss who was responsible for this security breach.”

A PSNI spokesman last night said police were now in possession of the documents and were investigating the circumstances surrounding their discovery.

“It is important that as part of this investigation we carry out an assessment of potential risk to those who may be named in the documents,” the spokesman said.

“It is our understanding that this material was handed to a broadcast journalist by a Member of Parliament. It is disappointing that this documentation was not passed immediately and directly to the police service to facilitate a speedy and effective investigation.”

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph.