Northern Ireland

Business couple at centre of PSNI data breach speak of fear over leak of personal details

PSNI blunder saw sensitive details of businesswoman and partner provided to loyalist Jamie Bryson

The PSNI was appealing for information about the incident in Bushmills in the early hours of Sunday
A PSNI data breach has left a couple 'worried sick' over their personal details being shared in error. (Niall Carson/PA)

A businessman and his wife at the centre of a PSNI data breach in which personal details were revealed to loyalist Jamie Bryson have been left “worried sick” over fears the sensitive material may have ended up in the hands of others as a result of police incompetence.

The businessman has spoken to The Irish News, and told of the couple’s shock at learning they had been the subject of a police investigation, and at being told that details including bank account information and his wife’s national insurance number were contained in a document given to Jamie Bryson.

The document was provided to Mr Bryson when he sought a judge’s order for the PSNI to hand over material following their successful secret Crown Court application to access the loyalist’s bank account.

Among the material was an intelligence report on Mr Bryson, in which sensitive details were redacted by the PSNI and MI5 after a Public Interest Immunity certificate was issued in December 2022 by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has said a legal challenge is being planned to the deal which led to the restoration of Stormont
Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who was handed sensitive personal information due to a police error. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY (Liam McBurney/PA)

However, the document mistakenly contained the sensitive details relating to the couple.

The “colossal” error has had a “massive impact” on their lives, the businessman, who The Irish News will not be naming, said.

He said they cannot trust any PSNI assurances that their information has not been provided to others through error, and said they have had to face concerns over possible threats including fraud and even tiger kidnapping.

They now plan to launch legal action over the data breach.

“The first we heard about any of this was when we received a call from police earlier this month telling us that a letter was to be delivered the following day,” he said.

“This was obviously very concerning, as we had no idea what it was about, and it led to a sleepless night of worrying and constant overthinking.

“Then the letter was delivered, explaining that personal details were given to a third party.

“We were in shock, both at the data breach, but also at the fact we were under investigation as far back as 2022 and had not heard a thing about it. We have never been arrested, or questioned, and have no criminal record, so we want to know why police were prying into our personal finances. It’s like Big Brother.

“As for the private details, this has had a massive impact on us personally. How could this have been allowed to be shared in this way? Who else has seen these details that we’re not aware of?”

There is no suggestion that Mr Bryson - who confirmed last week a complaint over the incident has been made to the Police Ombudsman’s Office - has shared the information contained in the document with anyone else.

The couple now fear others may have been mistakenly provided the information directly by police.

“It’s a colossal mistake, and we intend to take legal action over this,” the businessman said.

“Myself and my wife are worried sick over it. Even if the PSNI tell us they haven’t given the info to anyone else, how could we believe them after this?”

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Chris Todd confirmed to The Irish News last week that police were “made aware that personal details relating to an individual were shared in error in December 2022″, adding the PSNI was “working with the Information Commissioner in respect of any action required”.

The businessman added that as they run a number of successful firms, the couple remain concerned any leaked information could be of interest to criminals.

“We have had to think about how much at risk we are if police are leaking such sensitive information about us. Banking and other personal info being out there could make us a target for scammers, but with information about our businesses also being leaked, could we be a target of criminal gangs for tiger kidnappings, for example, id they see this and think, ‘oh they have a bit of money’? That’s what this breach has left us fearing.”