The Crown Prosecution Service yesterday started an inquiry into how a Dutch request to check DNA data from 4,000 serious criminals abroad was ignored for more than a year because an official was on sick leave.
Amid Conservative claims of "catastrophic failure", Gordon Brown admitted that 11 of the criminals involved had gone on to commit offenses in Britain including assault and non-payment of fines.
The disk containing the DNA samples was sent by the Dutch government in January last year to be checked against the British police national DNA database to see if any of the offenders had been active in the UK.
It included details of offenders involved in serious crimes in the Netherlands, including rape and murder, and was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service but is believed to have been mislaid while an official was on sick leave.
The police and the Serious and Organized Crime Agency finally launched an operation this month to check the data. So far 15 individuals have been identified as matching entries on the UK police DNA database. Eleven have committed further offenses in Britain.
The latest in a long line of government data failures stirred a political row at Westminster.
David Cameron accused the government of incompetence. Gordon Brown told him: "The inquiry will cover all the details of what happened. But it was only possible for the Dutch to ask us to look at our DNA records because we are keeping those records."
He said the only crimes committed by individuals were "assault and non-payment of fines".
"It was only possible for the Dutch to ask us to look at our DNA records because we are keeping those records. The Conservatives opposed that legislation," he said.
The Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, Keith Vaz, admitted that it was unsatisfactory that an administrative error had led to serious criminals not being apprehended.