A police force that inadvertently posted details of sex crime victims on its website apologized for the “anxiety this inadvertent disclosure of personal information will have caused”.

Suffolk Police said the data breach was discovered by a member of the public on the evening of November 7, but the document “was first published in 2019”.

The information was removed from the public domain as soon as possible after officers were alerted and an internal investigation began, the force said.

The officers are “trying to establish how many people have viewed the information”.

The data was contained in a spreadsheet on the law enforcement website and related to “investigations of sexual offenses and school-based crimes that were reported between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2019.”

Suffolk Police said it was determined that 2% to 3% of published investigations “included information that could lead to someone’s identification”.

“In most cases there was no personal data,” a spokesman added.

In a statement, the force said: “Officers and staff are continuing to assess the extent of the data breach.

“As part of their job, they are trying to reach out to those affected as soon as possible to give support, reassurance and offer an apology.

“The location of the Excel document would not have been immediately apparent on the police website.

“It was contained in a response to a freedom of information (FoI) request.

“As part of the investigation, we’re trying to determine how many people viewed the information.

“There have been no other reports since this document was first published in 2019.

“All other FoI responses have also been removed from our website and we are now confident that no other information breaches of this nature have occurred.

“Suffolk Police take their obligations under the Data Protection Act very seriously and have referred the breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

Assistant Chief Constable Eamonn Bridger said: “Suffolk Police are extremely sorry for the data breach and for the distress this inadvertent disclosure of personal information will have caused.

“We sincerely acknowledge and regret the additional concern this incident will have caused to the victims of crimes we have a duty to protect.

“We have now completely removed the document from public circulation and will continue to proactively seek to minimize any risk the release of this data may have posed.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future and have already implemented changes that will ensure these circumstances do not happen again.”

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