Secretary of State's speech - PSNI data breach

The Secretary of State made a speech in the House of Commons to update Parliament on the PSNI data breach which occurred on the 8th of August
 The Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP

Mr Speaker, I thank the Rt Honourable Gentleman for his question and as you know Mr Speaker I was keen to do a statement on the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s data breach on the 8th of August so I am pleased to have this opportunity. I am also happy to provide an update to the House on this matter.

However, since writing this answer, the Rt Honourable Gentleman will now know the news of the PSNI’s Chief Constable’s resignation has broken in the last few minutes. I will thank Simon Byrne for his years of public service. The appointment of a new Chief Constable is a matter for the Northern Ireland Policing Board and I’ll continue to liaise with the senior management team of the PSNI whilst the process of appointing a successor gets underway. The PSNI continues to have my, and the Government’s full support in responding to the breach and our focus on providing appropriate and proportionate data expertise. The breach,  where the personal information of over 10,000 officers and staff was accidentally published in what appears to be a human error involving a number spreadsheet fields happened on the 8th of August.

Not realising the relevant document contained a hidden table, the initials and surnames of every rank and grade; the location where each individual is based, but not their home address, and their duty type was published online for approximately 3 hours.

This data breach is deeply concerning and significant. Recent events in Northern Ireland, including the terrible attack on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, show there are still a small minority in Northern Ireland who wish to cause harm to PSNI Officers and staff in Northern Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those individuals who work to keep the people of Northern Ireland safe, my many thanks, and we all owe them our gratitude.

I recognise too that there is significant concern about the consequences of this data breach. Many PSNI officers and staff have raised concerns about themselves and their family and they have my support and understanding as they go about their important work keeping communities safe in these worrying and most testing of circumstances. To them again, I say thank you.

In response to these concerns, the PSNI and wider security partners are taking appropriate action and are working around the clock to investigate the incident, provide reassurance and mitigate any risk to the safety and security of officers and staff. As of 30 August 3,954 self referrals have been made to the PSNI’s Emergency Threat Management Group. This is part of the welfare and support services which have been made available to PSNI officers.

The House will understand that PSNI is devolved and has operational independence. This has been the case since April 2010 with the creation of the Department of Justice. However, as you would expect Mr Speaker, the government has remained in close contact with PSNI since this breach and other data breaches came to light. My officials and I have been receiving regular updates and the Government’s focus has been on providing specialist support and expertise to PSNI’s handling of this issue.

Officials in the Cabinet Office have chaired regular operational meetings and I will update the House further, hopefully during this urgent question.

Northern Ireland Office
The Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP