National Crime Agency: an FBI for the UK?
The recent speculation that the SFO would be wound up (as discussed in my earlier blog) has somewhat over-shadowed the plans for a National Crime Agency (NCA).
The NCA will replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the National Policing Improvement Agency.
Acting as an umbrella agency tasked with fighting fraud, organised crime, cyber-crime and illegal immigration, the NCA will coordinate intelligence across police force borders. Warranted NCA officers will have extensive powers; those of a police officer, combined with customs and immigration powers. The same officers will be accountable to a Chief Constable, who in turn will be accountable to the Home Secretary.
The NCA will also house a coordinating board for all agencies that tackle economic crime, including the SFO. This board will be ready in the next few months, with the NCA fully functional by 2013. However, the FSA and OFT have successfully argued that they should be excluded from the NCA.
My experience of a previous version of the NCA, the National Crime Squad, involved officers of the highest calibre. When acting in respect of an alleged securities fraud, one of the investigating officers was a former stockbroker. In subsequent US extradition proceedings, the officers' witness statements were flawless.
It brings to mind the line from the book, Layer Cake: 'only stupid people think the police are stupid'. I expect the NCA will be a force to be reckoned with.