The Home Secretary today praised the work of the National Crime Agency (NCA) as it celebrated its first anniversary.
The NCA and the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy – which was also launched on 7 October 2013 – represent a step change in the government’s approach to combating serious and organised crime, which is estimated to cost the UK at least £24billion a year.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
The NCA has achieved a great deal in its first year of operations. Through its close partnership with law enforcement agencies at home and overseas, it is demonstrating that no-one is beyond its reach.
Breaking new ground
The NCA has broken new ground in its investigation of serious and organised crime offences across the spectrum, including modern slavery. In its first six months, it achieved over 500 disruptions against serious and organised criminals and secured 300 convictions.
It also co-ordinated a national operation tackling sharing of child abuse images online, resulting in over 600 arrests so far, led an international operation to tackle malware used for cyber-crime and published the National Strategic Assessment - the most authoritative evaluation of the threat to the UK ever.
The NCA is collaborating more closely than ever with law enforcement partners such as HMRC and police forces. Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) have also been strengthened to maintain a sophisticated and cohesive regional response to organised crime.
The Home Secretary added:
The NCA needs to build on its strong start and get ahead of the threat. This means continuing to work with a broad range of partners to build the best possible intelligence picture and using all the tools available to disrupt and prosecute organised criminals.
The new Serious and Organised Crime Strategy is based on the successful framework used for counter-terrorism – pursue, prevent, protect and prepare – and sets out a comprehensive, detailed, cross-government approach.
As part of this work, the government has introduced a Serious Crime Bill to ensure the NCA, police and others have the powers they need. Measures include a new offence of participation in an organised crime group which targets corrupt lawyers, accountants and other professionals who have tried to evade justice by hiding behind a veneer of respectability.
The government is also building on its success in seizing criminal assets. Over the last four years, around £750million has been recovered, £93million returned to victims and in excess of £2.5billion frozen to put it beyond the reach of criminals.
Measures in the Serious Crime Bill will close loopholes used by criminals to get around confiscation orders, for example by hiding money with third parties such as spouses and associates.
The government is committed to working with partners in other European countries, as well with Europol and Interpol, and the private sector to ensure the UK can act decisively beyond its own borders. In April, the Home Office established a Financial Sector Forum to encourage better information sharing between the government, law enforcement agencies and the financial services sector and improve the overall response to financial crime.
Tackling the cyber threat
The government is also improving its response to cyber threats by acquiring new technologies and new capabilities. It is investing £860 million over five years through the National Cyber Security Programme and the Home Office has so far allocated £70million of this to improve law enforcement cyber capabilities.
As part of this, the Home Office last year provided an additional £10 million of funding to the ROCUs, leading to new capabilities that better handle intelligence, protect witnesses, and tackle cyber crime and fraud. We are making further new investments this year.
Sending a clear message
The Home Secretary said:
This government has demonstrated considerable progress in the fight against serious and organised crime. After too many years in which organised criminal gangs, their members and their associates got away with it – we are sending the clearest possible message.
Whoever you are and wherever you are, if you’re involved in organised crime then we will come after you, we will find you, we will prosecute you and we will punish you.