More than 15,000 people were accidentally deleted in their entirety from the Police National Computer at the start of the year, the Home Office has admitted.
After a month of uncertainty around an IT blunder, minister Kit Malthouse said in a written statement that a total of 209,550 offence records relating to 112,697 individuals had been deleted in error.
The coding mistake thought to have occurred on 10 January had led to the entire records of 15,089 people being wiped, he confirmed.
Labour said the Home Office screw-up could see criminals walk free because of a “dangerous” lack of records.
The government says the error – which covers fingerprints, DNA and arrest records – may not lead to a permanent data loss as duplicate records may still be available on other systems.
But it has been unable to say how many profiles and other items could end up being saved.
In a statement, Mr Malthouse said the deletion affected fewer than 200 fingerprint records and that work was ongoing to recover as many as possible.
He estimated that it would take around 12 weeks to restore available data.
“While the data is incomplete, there is the possibility that law enforcement partners will not have access to records and information that could help progress their inquiries and investigations,” he admitted.
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “This statement confirms many of the worst fears about the impact of this catastrophic data loss.
“Even in the best-case scenario, there will be three months during which criminals could walk free due to a dangerous lack of police records.
“We do not trust a government with this appalling lack of leadership and grip will be able to rectify these huge errors. Ministers need to take personal responsibility for this huge security breach.”