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A London man has been charged with stealing a government laptop in a case that prompts renewed concerns about the security of government computers.

Laurence Alleyne, 39, of Wood Green, London, was charged with theft of a laptop from Whitehall in an appearance at Bow Street Magistrates court this morning. Alleyne works as an assistant facilities manager in government.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said that Alleyne is charged with a single count of theft; however at least two other laptops were nicked from the Cabinet Office earlier this week.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman told us three laptops were stolen from the Cabinet Office on Monday. "None of the laptops contained sensitive information," she added.

The theft of Cabinet Office computers follows a string of embarrassing thefts from government agencies - including the security services - in recent years.

In March 2000, a laptop was pinched from under the nose of an MI5 agent when he put in down to pay for a ticket at a London's Paddington train station. Days later an MI6 agent lost his computer when he left it in a cab during a pub crawl. The laptop was later recovered but not until after a major security flap.

In January last year the Ministry of Defence admitted that it was unable to account for 594 laptops, which has been either misplaced or stolen from the sensitive government department over the last five years. ®

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