Secret personal details of Britain's most dangerous criminals have been lost by the Government.Another bungling civil servant? Not this time:
The names, addresses, details of convictions and even jail release dates of almost 130,000 people were all in Home Office files lost when a computer memory stick went missing. It was being used by an employee of a private contractor working for the department.Ah, no doubt on a PFI contract? And naturally, the taxpayer will pick up the bill.
Tory spokesman David Ruffley warned of huge costs for taxpayers if criminals sue the Home Office for breaching their privacy and the Data Protection Act.Well, that's quite likely, isn't it? Given the other things they've sued for in the past!
Still, there's a silver lining here:
The astonishing security blunder plunges Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was told of the scandal on Tuesday, into the greatest crisis of her career.
Miss Smith informed the Metropolitan Police – who are now frantically hunting for the portable data storage device – but chose not to tell the public immediately.
It took the intervention of a whistleblower for details to emerge. The delay is likely to lead to damaging questions for the Home Secretary, whose mood last night was described by aides as 'livid'.