Ministers cleared over ‘regrettable’ backlog

More than 27,000 Britons with convictions abroad were not entered on the Police National Computer because of a “collective failure” the official report into the crisis has concluded.

Ministers in the Home Office had not been told of the failure to update police computers, despite a “significant number of opportunities” for police to have informed them.

The report, commissioned by Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington, clears ministers of responsibility but found that the lack of action over such a long period was “difficult to understand and very regrettable”.

Ministers first knew of the situation on January 9th 2007, when the chief constable of Hampshire constabulary appeared before the home affairs select committee, it was recognised.

Ministers were not alerted to the problem on October 3rd 2006 by the letter sent from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the report ruled.

The Home Office has welcomed the report and agreed it can “learn lessons” from its findings.

However, Sir David said the situation within the department had already improved, pointing to new ministers, improved communication and new measures in place to assess risk.

He said: “I believe we have already moved on from the picture painted in the report.
But weaknesses remain.

“And we now need to go further and faster to achieve greater accountability, better performance and higher standards in every part of the Home Office.”

The report was commissioned in the wake of the discovery that 27,000 Britons convicted overseas had not been included on the Police National Computer, including 540 imprisoned for serious crimes including rape and murder.