The policing minister has said officers are “working at pace” to recover 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records that were accidentally wiped from police databases.
Kit Malthouse told Home Office officials and police officers to confirm their initial assessment that “there is no threat to public safety” from the apparent blunder.
He said the deletion from the Police National Computer (PNC) related to people who were arrested but released without further action.
But The Times reported that the lost data could allow offenders to go free because evidence from crime scenes will not be flagged.
Labour said Home Secretary Priti Patel should take responsibility for the “extraordinarily serious security breach” that “presents huge dangers for public safety”.
Her junior minister said the records were deleted during a “standard housekeeping process” that runs on the PNC.
“A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again,” Mr Malthouse said.
“The Home Office, NPCC (National Police Chiefs’ Council) and other law enforcement partners are working at pace to recover the data.
“While the loss relates to individuals who were arrested and then released with no further action, I have asked officials and the police to confirm their initial assessment that there is no threat to public safety.”
The deletions would appear to impinge on police power to reopen investigations should more evidence come to light in certain cases.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Home Secretary must take responsibility for this serious problem.
“She must urgently make a statement about what has gone wrong, the extent of the issue, and what action is being taken to reassure the public. Answers must be given.
“This is an extraordinarily serious security breach that presents huge dangers for public safety.
“The incompetence of this shambolic Government cannot be allowed to put people at risk, let criminals go free and deny victims justice.”
The Times said crucial intelligence about suspects had vanished because of the blunder, and Britain’s visa system was thrown into disarray with the processing of applications being suspended for two days.