The Serious Fraud Office has mistakenly sent 32,000 document pages, 81 audio tapes and electronic media from a probe into BAE Systems to the wrong person.
Around 98 per cent of the material has been recovered and the SFO said it is attempting to recover the remaining material not already destroyed by the recipient. The data constituted three per cent of the total data in the case, and the SFO insists that no material relating to national security was included and that the conviction will be unaffected.
The data loss took place between May and October 2012 and was flagged up in May 2013. Action was then taken in June to establish the extent of the loss, put in place a recovery strategy and to notify affected parties.
The data loss took place when the SFO returned material to a supplier after the close of an investigation, accidentally including additional material from 59 other sources.
An investigation into how the data loss happened is being carried out and steps are being taken to ensure it doesn't happen again. The SFO also said its director has instigated an independent wide-ranging review of all the organisation’s business processes by Alan Woods, a former senior civil servant.
Emily Thornberry, the Labour Party’s shadow attorney general, says a number of questions need to be answered about this case.
How did this happen? What category of documents are we talking about here? Who received them by mistake? How much of the evidence has been destroyed? What is the Government doing to ensure that this never happens again?
Incompetence like this threatens to have an impact on the reputation of the UK and its relations overseas.