Suffolk Police data breach saw identities of sexual offence victims from schools published online

Data about sexual offences that took place in schools was published by the force.
Credit: PA

A police force that had details of sexual abuse victims on its website for three years has revealed the offences took place in schools.

An investigation by Suffolk Police has found the document was first published in 2019 but was not flagged up to officers until earlier this month.

The data, in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, related to inquiries about sexual offences and other offences that took place in schools and were reported between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2019.

A spokesman for Suffolk Police said the information "was removed from the public domain as soon as possible after officers were alerted".

They added: "It has been established around 2-3% of the published investigations included information which could lead to someone being identified. In most cases no personal data was present.

"Officers and staff are continuing to assess the scale of the data breach. As part of their work they are endeavouring to contact those affected at the earliest opportunity to give support, reassurance and offer an apology."

The force insisted the document would not have been "immediately evident" on the website and was contained in a reply to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

"As part of the inquiry, we are seeking to establish how many people have viewed the information," the spokesman said.

All other FOI replies have been removed from the website and Suffolk Police said it was confident there had been no other information breaches "of this nature".

Eamonn Bridger, the county's assistant chief constable, said the force was "extremely sorry" for the breach.

"We recognise and sincerely regret the additional concern this incident will have caused for victims of crime that we are duty-bound to protect."

Victims of sexual offences are given automatic life-long anonymity by law, meaning it is illegal to publish anything that could identify them.

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