Commenting, Mr Clarke said:
‘‘The scale of this security breach is deeply alarming. I will be encouraging the PSNI to work closely and proactively with partners including the National Crime Agency to find those responsible, identify their intentions and minimise any risks for customers locally who have been left exposed by the release of this information on the dark web.
Gun ownership in Northern Ireland and indeed right across the United Kingdom is highly regulated. The inevitably means that for those with sinister criminal or terrorist motives the leaking of personal data belonging to those who have either been selling or buying firearms may be seized on as an opportunity to illegally and dangerously acquire weapons.
It is vital that the relevant law enforcement agencies take this matter seriously, particularly given the enduring threat posed by terrorist elements and organised crime group across our Province. It is also key that there is effective and regular communication with the 803 customers affected.
Finally, I would repeat the advice given by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) that gun owners should take extra steps to check their home security and exercise additional caution in locking away firearms at this time.’’