Northern Ireland

Another PSNI data breach as sensitive details revealed to loyalist Jamie Bryson

Information about businesswoman and her partner revealed in Public Interest Immunity papers sent to loyalist

Jamie Bryson posted updates on social media from the private DUP meeting
Jamie Bryson

SENSITIVE material relating to a businesswoman and her partner has been revealed to loyalist Jamie Bryson in the latest serious data breach by the PSNI.

The details were contained in error in a national security intelligence report relating to Mr Bryson, which was used by the PSNI and Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to secure a Public Interest Immunity certificate from a Crown Court judge.

The document contained details relating to third parties who were the subject of a different police investigation. It provided details of a woman’s financial situation, including her national insurance number, and bank account information relating to a limited company.

It’s the latest significant data breach by the PSNI, coming after details of more than 9,000 staff were mistakenly published in response to a Freedom of Information request last August.

In 2017, the PSNI successfully applied to the Crown Court in secret for an order allowing them access to Mr Bryson’s bank account, The Irish News has learned.

The loyalist then applied to the same court in Belfast, seeking a judge’s order that the PSNI hand over all the material, including a sensitive intelligence report.

It was subsequently discovered that the secretary of state had, in December 2022, issued a Public Interest Immunity certificate, seen by The Irish News, on national security grounds which allowed the PSNI and MI5 to redact information from the document.

The intelligence report disclosed that the PSNI had no information linking Mr Bryson to criminality or a proscribed organisation.

It has now emerged that the document in error contained the personal information in relation to other persons, and the PSNI is understood to be making efforts to recover the sensitive material from Mr Bryson.

The incident has been reported to the Police Ombudsman’s office, the loyalist has confirmed.

Mr Bryson said: “Firstly it is a matter of concern as to how The Irish News have obtained possession of such sensitive material, and that in itself leaves PSNI with yet more explaining to do.

“But, in any event, I can confirm that the PSNI have indeed made a rather monumental error and as this involves placing erroneous material before a senior judge, they have a duty of candour to the court and this requires them to return in open proceedings and explain that the judge was misled.

“Not only did the PSNI initially put false information before a judge, and much material is redacted so we don’t actually know how much, but then they went through the most intensive vetting process before release - including review by the deputy chief constable, senior counsel and secretary of state - and claimed Public Interest Immunity redacting large parts of the document, but still managed to release highly sensitive material in relation to other persons whose details were there in error in the first place.

“I can confirm a formal Police Ombudsman complaint has been made, but await the PSNI returning to the court to place on the record false information was put before it.

“It is not known how many times the same error has occurred when PSNI are seeking authority of the court to exercise draconian powers. This plainly requires an independent external review.”

Jon Boutcher was appearing at the monthly meeting of the NI Policing Board
PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher

Deputy Chief Constable Chris Todd said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland has been made aware that personal details relating to an individual were shared in error in December 2022.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland is working with the Information Commissioner in respect of any action required.”

The NIO was contacted for comment but declined to offer anything further.

This is the latest embarrassment for the PSNI with around 5,000 officers and civilian staff currently involved in legal action.

That is in relation to the data breach last year when the surnames, ranks or grades and units of 9,500 members of staff were mistakenly published.

The force has indicated that data breach could cost it up to £240million in security and compensation payouts.

The breach played a part in the resignation of the then Chief Constable Simon Byrne, who stood down in September following mounting pressure.

His successor Jon Boutcher later sanctioned one-off payments of £500 for every PSNI officer and staff member to help with home security measures.

Shortly after that breach came to light, it emerged that a PSNI laptop and notebook fell from a moving vehicle on the M2 motorway.