05 January 2006

PSNI security 'breached by computer error'


05/01/2006 - 13:59:54

A payslip gaffe may have compromised the security of thousands of people receiving salaries and pensions from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, it was claimed today.

Police chiefs confirmed a computer error occurred last month which left people being identified before Christmas as receiving pay from the PSNI in the payslips sent to banks and building societies.

The blunder was revealed by Democratic Unionist councillor Jimmy Spratt who demanded immediate investigations by Northern Secretary Peter Hain and the North’s Policing Board.

Mr Spratt said: “Thousands of serving officers, including part-time reservists, civilian workers and retired people, have their salaries paid into banks and building societies through a computer system.

“It is my understanding that a major blunder occurred last month during changes to the computer system, which resulted in payslips identifying people as receiving pay from the PSNI.

“Officers were informed of this breach in the last few days.

“However, we do not know how many officers are affected, if retired officers and civilian workers were also identified.

“We could be talking about thousands of people having had their security breached and being forced to move house.

“This is another major embarassment for the PSNI, considering there is still a terrorist threat out there and considering one of the banks was breached last year in a major bank robbery.

“Peter Hain and (Northern Ireland Office Security Minister) Shaun Woodward need to get to the bottom of this and the DUP will also be asking the Policing Board to investigate this gaffe.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland employs around 7,500 officers.

The organisation has also undergone a programme of civilianisation in some of its departments to free up officers for frontline duties.

There are plans to create another 300 civilian jobs over the next two years.

Following the discovery of the computer error, the PSNI asked officers who felt their personal security had been breached to take steps to ensure their safety.

A PSNI statement confirmed today: “The police are aware of a computer error in police payslips, which went out to banks last month.

“If any officer feels his or her personal security has been compromised, they will review their situation.”

Mr Spratt was critical, however, of the PSNI’s handling of the error.

“Officers are being asked to contact the security branch. The onus is being put on them,” he said.

“But I think the PSNI needs to be more proactive. If civilian workers and retired officers are affected, when are they going to be notified?

“We need to a know if an outside company were involved in changing the payslip system.

“There has to be an investigation into how this happened. The Policing Board are, I believe, obliged to look into this.

“Thousands of people need to be reassured, including retired officers and civilians receiving PSNI pensions and pay.”

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