Northern Ireland

New taskforce to tackle paramilitaries

Paramilitary mural
Image caption The Chief Constable says Loyalist and Republican groups involved in a range of organised crime will be targeted

A new joint taskforce is to be created to tackle crime by paramilitary groups.

The plans are part of a commitment to tackle paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, set out in the Fresh Start agreement almost two years ago.

The Chief Constable says Loyalist and Republican groups involved in a range of organised crime will be targeted.

"The fear and misery caused in our communities by paramilitaries is unacceptable and should not be tolerated," he said.

  • The new team will be led by the PSNI
  • It will include 40 PSNI officers, 22 staff from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and 10 customs officers.
  • It will receive £25m over the next five years, provided jointly by the Westminster government and Stormont.

A specialist PSNI team has been working on the initiative for the past year, but activities are set to step up in the coming weeks as the PSNI are joined by the rest of the taskforce.

Hamilton calls for restored Executive

Mr Hamilton has said the restoration of the Stormont Assembly is essential for the strategy to tackle paramilitary activity to succeed.

The taskforce launched today was part of a plan published by the executive before it collapsed earlier this year.

"There is no doubt that our work would be greatly enhanced and supported by the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive," he said.

"A stable Executive would provide greater certainty and leadership and allow long-term planning in this important area of work, and I hope on behalf of my organisation that we see political progress soon."

During that time just under 100 arrests have been made, 66 people have been charged or reported to the public prosecution service and about £450,000 worth of criminal assets have been seized or restrained.

The assets include more than £150,000 in cash and drugs with an estimated street value of about £230,000.

Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption The Chief Constable George Hamilton said Northern Ireland had about 100 organised crime groups

A number of guns as well as ammunition and pipe bombs have also been seized.

"Those under investigation are involved in all forms of serious and organised criminality including paramilitary style assaults, extortions, intimidation, drug dealings, money laundering, and so the list goes on," Chief Constable George Hamilton said.

"We have around 100 organised crime groups across Northern Ireland. Not all of those will fly under the flag of convenience of a paramilitary group, but many of them will.

"We prioritise against the threat risk and harm that they pose to communities. We simply go where the evidence and where the intelligence takes us, so that reaches us into most of the paramilitary groups.

"We don't get too concerned about what the label is, it's the harm that they're causing in communities that we want to disrupt and reduce."

Lynne Owens, the director general of the NCA, said its officers will give the team significant new resources and expertise.

This includes a network of 160 international liaison officers and specialist tax and financial investigators.

"Targeting the money flow of a paramilitary group can help derail how they traditionally generate money, prevent further crimes and undermine their status," she said.