In a fanfare of publicity the new NCA, which replaces SOCA (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) begins work today.
Some of us will remember that this is the third such organisation to be hailed as 'Britain's answer to the FBI' since 1997. The preceding organisations were beset with culture clashes between the various organisations involved and political in-fighting.
SOCA got off to a very slow start and seemed to concentrate on drugs trafficking but, although they only pursued a small amount of prosecutions, they did have a high success rate. Their prosecutions would involve lengthy surveillance and bugging (RIPA) operations.
The NCA has a budget approximately 50% less that SOCA, and that is going to have a marked effect upon their capabilities.
They have been recruiting volunteer accountants/lawyers/IT specialists because they cannot afford to pay for such experts. They are not the first to do this; the Met employed a large number of volunteers to view and assess huge volumes of CCTV in the London riots prosecutions.
Keith Bristow will lead the NCA and will target some 37,000 alleged criminals with connections to 5,500 organised criminal groups.
The NCA will focus upon disruption of these alleged criminals and their various allegiances, normally by prosecuting relatively minor offences and pursuing civil asset forfeiture and restraint. This means seizing cars, boats, and property in the civil jurisdiction, which requires the lower civil standard of proof and essentially places the burden on the individual to prove that s/he acquired the assets legitimately.
The NCA will not co-operate with FOI (Freedom of Information) requests, they will be more visible, will have 4,500 officers (many transferring from SOCA) and will also include cybercrime within its remit.
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