Northern Ireland

Dissidents blamed for posting PSNI data leak document on wall

Sinn Fein’s Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said he believed dissident republicans had posted part of a data breach on a wall (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sinn Fein’s Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said he believed dissident republicans had posted part of a data breach on a wall (Liam McBurney/PA) Sinn Fein’s Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said he believed dissident republicans had posted part of a data breach on a wall (Liam McBurney/PA)

Dissident republicans posted redacted information from a major PSNI data breach on the wall of a library in Belfast to prove they are in possession of the sensitive material, a Sinn Fein MLA has said.

Gerry Kelly said the document which was posted overnight close to the Sinn Fein office on the Falls Road, included information about a “substantial number” of police officers and staff, although their names had been removed.

The latest revelation in the controversy which has rocked the PSNI comes as it has emerged that almost 3,000 police officers have inquired about potential damages following the massive data leak.

Last week the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) revealed a document had mistakenly been shared online which included the names of about 10,000 officers and staff.

Details released include the surname and first initial of every employee, their rank or grade, where they are based and the unit they work in.

Policing Board member Mr Kelly, who described the posting of the information as sinister, explained that he had been contacted by a party member this morning who had arrived at the office.

He said: “He noticed that on the side of the library there was a number of documents pasted up.

“There was a photograph of myself and then there was a statement saying in large writing: ‘Gerry, we know who your mates are.’

“Under that there was what appeared to be, and what turned out to be, a section of the leaked documents that were put out.

“It did not have the names of the police officers involved, but it had everything else.

“It wasn’t the whole 10,000 (names), but it was a substantial number.”

Mr Kelly added: “I look upon this as a threat by dissidents to me and I will not be intimidated.

“More serious is that this is the dissidents, or whoever is involved, putting out that their claim that they have access to the leaked documents, they are putting out a verification on that.

“I think that is their main intention.”

Asked why he believes dissident republicans are responsible, Mr Kelly said: “To have the names of the officers, if you were caught putting such information up then you would be under criminal charge immediately.

“One of the reasons that makes me believe it is dissidents is precisely that.

“They were clever enough to remove and to put up what they believe would not be illegal.”

PSNI data breach
PSNI data breach Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd (Liam McBurney/PA)

Last week, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said he was aware of claims that dissident republicans, who are opposed to the peace process in Northern Ireland, are in possession of information from the breach, but stressed that claim has not been verified.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd confirmed that an investigation has begun into the posting of the redacted information in Belfast.

He said: “We are aware that some redacted information from the Tuesday August 8 data breach has allegedly been posted on a wall in west Belfast today, Monday August 14.

“We have commenced an investigation into this matter.

“From the outset we have been planning for this potential development and that plan is now being put into place.”

Mr Todd continued: “We recognise the impact this may have on our officers, staff and their families and additional security and reassurance patrols have already been implemented across Northern Ireland as part of our organisational response.

“The safety and welfare of our officers and staff remains our priority and we have reminded them of their personal safety and security both on and off duty.”

Hundreds of officers have expressed concern for their safety in Northern Ireland, where police are under threat from terrorists – with the current level of threat assessed as severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file PSNI officers, that by Monday afternoon 2,905 officers had expressed an interest in the event of legal action following the major data breach.

While no legal action has yet commenced, it is thought officers and staff whose names and places of work were revealed could be in line for compensation.

The PSNI is already facing significant budget pressures and any settlements would be expected to run into tens of millions of pounds.