This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Speech given by Home Secretary Theresa May on 17 March 2014 at National Crime Agency leadership event.
Thank you. I am delighted to be here today because as leaders of the National Crime Agency (NCA) you all have an incredibly important role to play.
The creation of the National Crime Agency last October was a significant moment in this country’s fight against organised crime. Also on that day, I published the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, a reflection of just how determined I am to see organised crime confronted, and that doing so is the responsibility of all law enforcement, most government departments and the private sector.
The NCA has a strong mandate to tackle serious and organised crime, enhanced intelligence capabilities and — for the first time — the remit and authority to coordinate and task operational activity across all law enforcement agencies.
Through these enhanced powers and capabilities I believe you are better placed than any other organisation before, to ensure the effective — and relentless — pursuit and disruption of serious and organised criminality, and to help bring more criminals deemed to be “untouchable” to justice.
And since its launch, the NCA has made an impressive start.
I know as an organisation there are a number of successes which you have made recently and which I would like to congratulate you on.
I would like to mention the work of your CEOP Command — whose headquarters we are meeting in today — who through Operation Endeavour cracked an organised crime group involved in sickening internet based child sexual abuse in the Philippines.
That operation shows what can be achieved by working with international partners. Through an investigation involving the NCA, the Australian Federal Police and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 29 people were arrested internationally, including 17 in the UK.
And most importantly, 15 children aged 6-15 were rescued and are now being safeguarded from sexual abuse.
I also want to mention the work of those involved in Operation Captura which recently secured the 56th arrest out of 76 wanted individuals thought to be on the run in Spain. Through that operation you are ensuring that a number of dangerous individuals who have tried to evade justice in the UK have been caught and put behind bars. That sends out a strong message to all criminals that no one should consider themselves beyond the reach of the NCA’s international networks.
And finally, I would like to mention Operation Autumnglow: the West Midlands Police operation supported by the Organised Crime Command.
Thanks to this operation into a case involving modern day slavery, four Romanian men being held and exploited for labour have been freed and six potential child trafficking victims have been referred into care.
You will be aware that I have made tackling modern slavery a priority for the NCA, and I am personally determined that this appalling crime should be confronted robustly and stamped out in the UK.
I have published a draft Bill on Modern Slavery the intention of which, alongside a range of policy actions, will be to make it easier to bring more perpetrators to justice, toughen sentences for the worst slave drivers and traffickers and ensure victims receive the support they need to recover from their traumatic ordeal.
But I have always been clear that a strengthened law enforcement response must be part of the answer.
The NCA has a crucial role to play in this.
In addition to the wide range of work you do in this field, the new Intelligence hub will help build intelligence on the criminal gangs involved in these activities so that they can be dismantled and the criminals who trade in human misery brought to justice.
And from this April, I have announced that specialist anti-slavery teams will be deployed at our borders to identify and protect victims of modern slavery, which the NCA will support.
Referrals of potential victims of human trafficking to the National Referral Mechanism continue to increase. I encourage you all to keep up the momentum and your good work in tackling this crime, so that you continue to put the slave drivers and traffickers under pressure and so that they feel the full weight of the law.
I have outlined some examples of the excellent work the NCA is already achieving. But I am conscious that in these first months you have also faced challenges.
The NCA has been built to be more open and transparent than its predecessor. Inevitably, this has led to increased scrutiny. As the NCA’s visibility increases with time, you should expect further scrutiny. The NCA is not only accountable to the Home Office, but to the public.
More widely, you will be aware of my recent statement in the House of Commons on the findings of the Mark Ellison Review. That review examined allegations of corruption surrounding the initial, deeply flawed, investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
I will not go into the detail of those findings here. But the review has once again reinforced the need for the highest standards in public office.
The challenges you face go beyond operational ones. One of the biggest you currently face as an organisation is how you transform yourselves into an effective and modern organisation, fully integrating your precursor organisations and improving your overall capabilities.
Serious and organised crime is constantly evolving and adapting to take advantage of the latest technology and innovations.
I am conscious — in particular — of the changing nature of the threat from cyber crime, and the threat posed by organised criminals to our financial institutions — something the new dedicated Economic Crime Command will seek to confront.
Changes and transformation
In order to keep up, you will also need to adapt.
The wide-ranging programme of transformation the NCA has embarked on will help you to do that.
Some changes have already been made, such as the operating framework.
Others still lie ahead. I am aware in particular of the frustrations experienced by many officers using outdated IT systems.
It is imperative that a modern crime-fighting body such as the NCA should have the right capabilities in order to be able to do its job. I know that this is an issue currently being looked at and solutions sought to ensure you have the right tools and capabilities to go after the most serious criminals.
I am pleased to hear that the NCA has been working with officials in the Communications Capabilities Development Programme in the Home Office to identify capability requirements and delivery options.
The Transformation Programme will ensure the NCA embraces and keeps pace with rapidly evolving technologies, capabilities and methods in order to exploit the increasing dependency of organised criminals on internet related information.
But it’s not just about technology.
The NCA needs people with the right skills to exploit the opportunities afforded by that technology and who are able to analyse intelligence and data to further investigations. As leaders of the NCA, you are responsible for championing efforts to ensure you have the right people to do the job.
In addition, the NCA Specials will be a great asset to the agency, helping to bring specialist skills, experience and knowledge across a range of fields including digital and financial.
The changes you will help to make as leaders will ensure the NCA can deliver its strategic priorities.
The first of these is identifying and disrupting high priority serious and organised crime groups and ensuring wherever possible those responsible can be prosecuted. This should be of great importance for every officer at the NCA as I am determined no criminal group should consider themselves beyond the reach of the law.
Second is supporting the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, which along with the creation of the NCA is transforming our response to serious and organised crime.
Third is the development of technical and human capabilities which I have already touched on.
Fourth, working in close partnership with the police and other law enforcement agencies;
And fifth, disrupting the international dimension of serious and organised crime.
Through the changes you make and the focus on these strategic priorities, I believe you will continue to make progress. I look forward to seeing that progress in the future.
I want to see the highest priority groups tackled using a wide range of interventions.
I want to see the NCA able to play its full part in the delivery of the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.
And I want to see the people of the UK less vulnerable to serious and organised crime.
I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge you are facing. But I believe it is achievable.
While you are going through your programme of transformation you will also be continuing business as usual — organised criminals will not stop just because the NCA is changing.
You will also be building up your partnerships.
I have been particularly pleased in the first months of the NCA’s life to see the excellent partnership work between the NCA and the police. The NCA made an excellent first start with Operation Assert, which demonstrated the NCA’s capability and appetite to work across a range of police forces to achieve operational success.
The NCA’s role in bringing police forces and other law enforcement organisations together to tackle the threat is a crucial one, and we should not underestimate it. Police work also needs to be informed by NCA assessment and supported by NCA specialist resources.
But more needs to be done to build engagement with a wider range of partners, including other government departments, the regulators, local authorities, the voluntary sector, the private sector and communities. I welcome the role you can play in helping to achieve that.
Ultimately the greatest asset the agency has is its officers. As leaders of the NCA, you are vital to delivering an effective transformation programme and encouraging the continued pursuit of excellence. Through your leadership, the NCA can truly become a world-class agency, leading the way in the UK’s fight against serious and organisation crime.
I want to thank you all for your hard work in ensuring the launch of the NCA was a success.
You have made a very impressive start. And I would like to thank Keith Bristow and everyone in this room for making it such a successful start.
But I want to see the NCA go further.
I want to see more organised crime groups broken.
More slave drivers and traffickers caught.
More drugs and smuggling rings smashed.
And more criminals who are deemed to be “untouchable” brought to justice.
And I want the NCA to send out a very clear message to all those involved in organised crime: whoever, and wherever, you are, we will do all in our power to disrupt your activities, prosecute you and ensure you are locked up.