Prison data bungle - exclusive

Bungling officials have accidentally posted confidential details of dozens of murderers, rapists and paedophiles intended for police use to a Norfolk business, the EDP can reveal today .

Bungling officials have accidentally posted confidential details of dozens of murderers, rapists and paedophiles intended for police use to a Norfolk business, the EDP can reveal today .

Ministers came under renewed fire last night following the latest in a series of data security failures. It involves paperwork relating to prisoners from jails all over Britain who are due to relocate to the county on their release. Instead of being passed between intelligence teams, a series of bundles landed on the doormat of a small retailer two miles from Norfolk police headquarters.

The Ministry of Justice has launched an inquiry into the error after it was brought to the department's attention by the EDP. A spokesman said it was not yet clear how this happened and whether the mistake came from within the prison service, probation or police. She added: “We are working with Norfolk police to investigate this matter.”

It comes as the government faces criticism over the handling of sensitive personal information after HM Revenue and Customs lost computer disks containing details of 25 million child benefit recipients.

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Police officers yesterday recovered the documents and were studying them in an attempt to discover the cause of the leak. North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb described it as another “completely unacceptable lapse in security”.

Mr Lamb said: “The government appears to be a serial offender on this and the danger is it leaves us with absolutely no confidence that they are capable of handling information securely.

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“It appears that the individual who received this information has behaved responsibly and reported it but the papers could easily have gone to somebody who would misuse them.

“Also, there is a good reason that this information is forwarded to the police: to help them protect the public. If the information has gone astray, it makes it very difficult for officers to follow the movements of serious criminals.”

The bundles list the full names, dates of birth and criminal histories of more than 40 inmates set to be released from jail. They also list addresses that the prisoners will be required to live at as part of their resettlement programme.

One document, seen by the EDP, gives details of a murderer who was expected to move to Norwich after being released from Leyhill prison in Gloucester tomorrow after serving 29 years of a life sentence. Those plans may now be re-thought.

All of the inmates whose information has been leaked have been convicted of serious crimes such as violence or sex offences involving children. A large number of prisons are involved including Wayland in Norfolk.

The business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said he began receiving the letters at his industrial unit in Wymondham about a month ago. At first he shredded the documents assuming it was an isolated mishap but he was soon being bombarded with the data.

He said: “When I opened the letters I realised they were full of details about some of the most serious offenders in the country.

“I don't understand how the government can be so careless with information like this. I would have thought there would be a secure courier system or at least safeguards to ensure they are sent to the right place.

“We have been led to believe that they are tightening up security but instead they seem to be just sticking sensitive data into the mainstream postal system with no real concern for where it will end up.”

A spokesman for Norfolk police said: “On face value we would appear to be the intended recipient of this information. We take information security very seriously and are actively working with the prison service and probation service to establish the full circumstances surrounding this matter.”

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