BUNGLING police emailed the personal details of suspected criminals to 150 farmers. Members of the Northumberland Farm Watch scheme were stunned when they opened the message to discover the names, dates of birth and addresses of dozens of alleged offenders.
Red-faced officers sent a follow-up message two days later when the error was spotted, asking the farmers not to read the information and to delete it immediately.
But one man last night told how he had already opened the attachment – and seen the names of three people he knew.
The Information Commission is now investigating the lapse. Northumbria Police last night apologised for the error and revealed they had launched an internal inquiry. Data in the email also included what action the force intended to take against the suspected criminals.
A farmer from the Alnwick area, who did not want to be named, said: “I got the email earlier on this week with the attachment. It was something called CDRP Level One.
“It had a list of names, addresses and ages of people who have committed crimes in the area and what action is being taken against them. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I know three of the people on the list.
“Then two days later I received another email from the police telling me to delete the attachment urgently and not to open it. I have deleted it now, but I had already looked at it and I know of at least another 30 farmers who have done the same.”
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said: “This is a serious breach of data protection and it is the sort of thing which undermines confidence in organisations which keep information. It can only undermine what the police do in this area.” A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioners Office confirmed it would investigate.
She said: “We have received an email from Northumbria Police and we will be looking into what has happened here.”
Northumberland area commander, Chief Supt Kevin Lambert, admitted the data had been sent in error. He said: “On Friday, November 14, a regular email bulletin was sent out to 150 recipients in Northumberland Area Command. A separate document was attached to the email in error.
“This document contained personal information of 51 people, some of whom have been brought to the attention of the police service and other partner agencies.
“As soon as the error was highlighted to Northumbria Police management, all necessary steps were taken to contact those individuals who had received the email, asking them to delete it immediately and not to open or read the attachment.
“We sincerely apologise for this error. We believe at this stage that there is nothing that would compromise individual or public safety.
“An internal review is being undertaken and will introduce measures to guard against this type of incident happening in the future.”