After the recent spate of government private data loss including laptops, CDs and secret files left on trains, a memory stick containing thousands of details of criminals has now gone missing.

The stick contains unencrypted details about 10,000 public offenders and data on 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales, as well as information about 30,000 people with six or more convictions in the last year, taken straight off the Police National Computer.

'Government incompetence'

While the memory stick was lost by private company PA Consulting, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve has blamed "government incompetence" and says he is "absolutely horrified".

If the data fell into the wrong hands, the criminals could find their identities being revealed, and are expected to pursue legal action against the government over the blunder.

"The British taxpayer will be absolutely outraged if they are made to pick up the bill for compensation to serious criminals," said Dominic Grieve.

'Beggars belief'

Ken Munro, Director of Secure Test, the security division of IT consultants NCC Group told Techradar; "It beggars belief that these kinds of basic errors are still being made by those who should be setting the standard for good corporate governance."

He continued: ""It doesn't matter if it's a laptop, CD or USB stick: any form of unencrypted mobile media is vulnerable. Regardless of whether you lose the information or are subject to a theft or hack, by not encrypting sensitive data you are effectively leaving yourself wide open and should be held responsible for any fall-out."

Home secretary Jacqui Smith says a full investigation is being conducted.