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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Home Office in crisis

So far John Reid has managed to keep things together at the Home Office in the face of the pressure on his apparently floundering junior colleagues. However, today's Sunday papers will make that much more difficult.

The Independent on Sunday reveals that Home Office officials are investigating claims that a man whose conviction in Europe was not registered on the police database went on to kill on his return to the UK:

Dale Miller, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, was convicted in 2002 of shooting dead gangster Freddie Knights.

It is understood that Miller is among more than 80 serious criminals who committed crimes abroad and have gone on to reoffend in Britain.

This latest disclosure in the foreign offenders scandal will cause fresh embarrassment to Mr Reid, who has already launched an inquiry.

His officials had failed to log the details of 27,500 offenders convicted overseas on the police national computer, it emerged last week. The massive backlog included more than 500 serious criminals including murderers, rapists, paedophiles and other sex offenders.

This latest revelation has put into perspective the failure of Ministers to act when they received a letter from ACPO warning them of this problem three months ago. The Mail on Sunday has added to that pressure however with news of a further blunder. They report that confidential details sent to MI5 by thousands of individuals and businesses have ended up with an American company specialising in supermarket mailshots.

It seems that MI5's terrorist e-mail alert service is not being run in-house but has been out-sourced to Whatcounts Inc, a US computer firm based in Seattle, who are storing the details and sending out the terror alerts. There are questions about whether this company has been vetted and if the data is secure as it is transferred across the Atlantic.

Faced with the publicising of their faux pas Whitehall officials said MI5's arrangements are now being reviewed and that the email data will be transferred back to the UK. This is a very quick cave-in and indicates either that they (or Ministers) did not realise what was going on in the first place or that things have now got so bad that all it takes is a bit of publicity for the Home Office to back down.
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