Northern Ireland news

PSNI data breach FOI passed through at least three departments

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Connla Young

A Freedom of Information request which released details of more than 10,000 PSNI staff members passed through at least three separate departments and was approved for release by human resources.

The release of partial names, rank and role of thousands of PSNI officers via a FOI has sparked a crisis in the force.

Read more: 

The Irish News revealed yesterday that the PSNI is currently liaising with the British government's emergency response committee Cobra over the security breach.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "We have been actively engaged in conversations with national security partners here and in Great Britain to try to assess some of the scale and the risk. 

"Senior levels of government are engaged in understanding and supporting a resolution to this problem."

It has also been revealed that the person who submitted the original FOI request has yet to be located by PSNI officers investigating the breach.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "This will form part of our ongoing investigation."

Chief Constable Simon Byrne revealed yesterday that dissident republicans have claimed they are in possession of the compromising data, which has been circulated on social media.

Read more: Who are the New IRA?

The senior officer, who has resisted calls to resign, is understood to have named the New IRA as the group which claimed it had the material during the emergency meeting of the Policing Board this week.

The far-reaching data breach has made public previously unknown detail around the PSNI's intelligence work, including that close to 40 officers are based at the headquarters of MI5 in Holywood, Co Down.

Read more:


It is understood that Policing Board members were told on Thursday that the FOI in which the released data was contained passed through three different departments within the PSNI before it was made public on the information website 'what do they know'.

It is believed that the request was initially received by the PSNI's FOI team, which falls within the Corporate Information Branch, which in turn is part of the Operational Support Department.

It also passed through the Human Resources Department and the PSNI's Strategic Communications and Engagement Department, which is responsible for handling all media queries.

It is understood that during Thursday's Policing Board meeting members were told that the FOI was approved for release by the human resources department.

It has also emerged that Policing Board members were briefed that the PSNI became aware of the security breakdown as a result of routine monitoring.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "We were made aware of the breach by a number of employees after the data was uploaded onto a legitimate website."

While the requester has yet to be located details of the information sought remain online.

Northern Ireland news