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200 police officers and staff not informed of personal data theft for almost a month

Two hundred police officers and staff of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) were not informed of the theft of their personal data for almost a month, the force has confirmed.

A police-issued laptop, radio and documents were stolen on July 6 from a superintendent’s car parked in Newtownabbey car.

Details of the thefts was announced by police last week shortly after it declared a “critical incident” over the details of 10,000 officers and staff being published online for several hours on 1 August.

The force has disclosed officers and staff were not informed of the thefts until August 4.

The force said its Information Security Unit first received a report of the thefts on 27 July, before its Information Commissioners’ Officer was informed on July 31.

It is understood police are urgently reviewing why there was a several week delay before staff were informed of the breaches.

The PSNI’S Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said in a statement he believes the laptop and radio were deactivated shortly after being stolen.

He said: “We are confident no data has been lost from these devices and they are of no use to any third party.

“Our Information Security Unit were informed on July 27.

“As there was a delay, our Information Security Unit had to conduct their own enquiries to be clear on what accurate information could be conveyed to the Information Commissioners Office who were then informed on July 31.

“The precise nature of the missing data had to be confirmed before we could inform our officers and staff on August 4. We have worked with our Data Protection Officer and sought legal advice and guidance to ensure the information we provided to our employees was accurate.”

Last week, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said he is aware of claims that dissident republicans are in possession of information from the breach, but stressed that claim has not been verified.

Scores of officers have expressed concern for their safety in Northern Ireland, where police are under threat from terrorists – with the current level of threat assessed as severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

A Threat Management Assessment Group has been set up by the PSNI for those concerned about risk and it has had had 1,200 referrals by Friday evening.

Mr Byrne cut short a family holiday last week to return to Belfast to answer questions about the data blunder.

He was quizzed by political representatives at the Northern Ireland Policing Board on Thursday, and met with police officer and staff representative groups on Friday.

Mr Byrne said on Thursday he was “deeply sorry” about an “industrial scale breach of data”.

During The Troubles, more than 300 police officers were murdered in Northern Ireland, largely by republican paramilitaries.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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