Prison chiefs are investigating after confidential documents containing the names and address of children at a nearby school were accidentally handed over to inmates. The paperwork, from a recent school trip, was handed over in error as part of a waste disposal scheme run to help get prisoners at HMP Portland, in Dorset, back to work.
Inmates taking part in the “back to work” scheme are given files from various offices and schools to destroy and are then tasked with making flammable BBQ briquettes out of the shredded paper for the prison furnace.
However, as soon as the mistake was discovered, the scheme was stopped and an urgent investigation has now been launched into how the sensitive paperwork ended up in a jail that includes sex offenders.
An inspectorate report published last year said HMP Portland, which houses around 500 inmates, was home to a “small, but significant, number of sex offenders”, although it is not known if any of those had access to the school children’s details.
Senior teachers at the Portland Aldridge Community Academy notified parents last week that paperwork containing pupils’ information had “not been destroyed in the manner it would have expected”.
The academy opened in 2012 following the merger of two infant schools, one primary school, one junior school and a local arts college.
One parent said: “All sorts of prisoners are in there, and they had children’s name and addresses – it’s a real security concern.
“We were contacted by the school last week and the governors have assured us (about the safety of the children on the list), but this should never have happened in the first place. “Schools should not be sending any kind of paperwork to a prison, it’s as simple as that.”
Bosses at the school, which takes pupils aged from three to 19, have notified the Department for Education, Ofsted and the Information Commissioner, who has launched an independent inquiry.
The Prison Service said it was taking the matter “very seriously”.
A spokesman added: “This incident is being investigated as a matter of urgency.
Mark Wilding, Business Development Director of Concept commented ‘Data of any description needs to be handled in the correct manner ensuring that there is a robust, documented, secure protocol in place with reconciliation points and a custodian who is responsible through the complete destruction process. There is a potential ICO breach and several people could be culpable’