London, Aug 22 : British Home Office has lost confidential information on every prisoner in England and Wales, including the names, dates of birth, and addresses of more than 30,000 repeat offenders, sparking yet another data crisis.
A spokeswoman for Britain's Home Office said a contractor mislaid an unencrypted memory stick containing the names and dates of birth of 84,000 inmates - England and Wales' entire prison population. Scotland and Ireland keep separate records.
The stick also carried the home addresses of 33,000 criminals who had committed six or more recordable convictions over the last 12 months, she said.
It has led to fears that the taxpayer may now face a multi-million pound compensation bill from criminals whose safety may be compromised, The Telegraph reported.
The home addresses of some of Britain's most prolific and serious offenders - including those who have committed violent and sexual crimes - are understood to be among the data now missing.
They were on a computer memory stick used by Home Office consultants, which has gone missing over the past week. A full investigation has been launched and the police have been informed.
Home Office officials are now in discussions with the Information Commissioner about what steps it may need to take to protect those whose privacy has been jeopardised. The Commissioner said last night that "searching questions must be answered" before it decides what further action to take.
The latest data scandal follows the loss of 25 million child benefit records last year and details of millions of learner drivers and army recruits earlier this year.
Whitehall departments were ordered to tighten procedures in the wake of the previous crises and the latest loss has stunned insiders.
It is understood that PA Consulting were employed by the Home Office to track and analyse serious and prolific offenders as part of the JTrack programme.
The Home Office sent confidential personal details on the criminals to the consulting company on a secure encrypted email, which was then transferred, in an unencrypted form onto a computer memory stick. The stick is now missing.