PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne says dissidents claim to have access to leaked police data

The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland has apologised to those affected - ITV News' UTV Reporter Jordan Moates has the latest

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has apologised following a major leak of police data which saw the details of some 10,000 officers and civilian staff published online.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of the Policing Board, Simon Byrne said he's "deeply sorry" over an "industrial scale breach of data".

He added that the PSNI is aware that dissident republicans claim to be in possession of some of the information circulating on Whatsapp.

However, he said police were not in a position to verify the substance of the claim. He said there had been, as yet, no officers moved from their homes.

He also said the PSNI could be open to financial penalty.

He told UTV he was not asked to resign at the meeting on Thursday and was focused on the wellbeing of officers and staff.

He said he was confident he could restore trust in the organisation and given the nature of the "serious and grave" situation his, or others "walking away would not solve the challenges we face".

The incident happened when the PSNI responded to a Freedom of Information request seeking the number of officers and staff of all ranks and grades across the organisation.

WATCH: Full press conference with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

In the published response to this request a table was embedded which contained the rank and grade data, but also included detailed information that attached the surname, initial, location and departments for all PSNI employees.

The data was potentially visible to the public for between two and a half to three hours.

On Wednesday it emerged that the theft of documents, including a spreadsheet containing the names of more than 200 serving officers and staff, and a police issue laptop and radio, from a car in Newtownabbey in July, is also being investigated.

Simon Byrne confirmed that the laptop has not yet been recovered.

"We haven't recovered the stolen property, I know there is speculation about how and why it may have been stolen but we're in now an investigation which is in its early stages, and we can't confirm much else," he said.

He said police have means of wiping devices remotely, and laptops are protected by password.

"So we're quite confident that any information on those devices will not be accessible by a third party," Simon Byrne added.

The chief constable said the priority "has to be remaining alert to the safety and welfare of both officers and staff as we deal with this unprecedented incident".

He told the media: "I am deeply sorry about what has happened when we have seen an industrial scale breach of data that has gone into the public domain.

"We quickly established a critical incident command structure ... so that we can work flat out to get answers to the questions that are on everybody's lips both within the organisations and beyond that.

"An early worst case scenario that we have been dealing with is that third parties would attempt to get this data to intimidate, corrupt or indeed cause harm to our officers and staff.

"We are now aware that dissident republicans claim to be in possession of some of this information circulating on WhatsApp, and as we speak we are advising officers and staff about how to deal with that and any further risk that they face."

Policing Board chair Deirdre Toner said: “The personal impact of this data breach on the 10,000 PSNI officers and staff affected cannot be overstated. Their safety and welfare, and the steps being taken by PSNI to communicate with staff and address their concerns were at the forefront of our discussions with the Chief Constable and his senior team at the extraordinary Board meeting that was held this morning. "The Board also heard directly from the Police Federation and NIPSA, who represent the majority of the staff impacted and Members were left in no doubt that this breach has left many staff shocked, worried and angry. "This breach has been identified as due to human error, with very serious consequences. Board members discussed the immediate actions PSNI are taking to support officers and staff. "Members have impressed upon the senior team the need to ensure every necessary step will be taken to reassure and protect affected staff, and to put the safeguards in place that will ensure this cannot happen again. "In addition, Members discussed with the Chief Constable and senior team the end-to-end review process of information security management which is now needed, and will agree with the senior team the scope of this review and the expertise needed to deliver it. "This breach is a very grave matter and will remain the focal point for Board meetings with PSNI for many months to come until we are reassured that the recommendations from the review are fully implemented.”

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