National Crime Agency 'must seize more from criminals'

The National Crime Agency officers Image copyright NCA

The National Crime Agency must "drastically" increase the amount of criminal assets it recovers to "justify its budget", a committee of MPs says.

The Home Affairs Committee said it was not seeing "the level of performance we would expect" from the NCA.

The organisation, which has a £500 million annual budget, started work in October 2013 and recovered assets worth £22.5 million in its first year.

The NCA has said generating revenue is not its key aim.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "The NCA has been a success, and has proved to be more responsive and more active than its predecessor Soca (the Serious Organised Crime Agency), but it is not yet the FBI equivalent that it was hailed to be."

In a report on the "new architecture of policing", the committee reviewed the changes made by Home Secretary Theresa May - which she previously called the "most radical" in 50 years.

In October 2014, Mrs May said the NCA had made a "strong start".

But the committee said that, like Soca, the NCA was "not recovering assets in sufficient volume to justify a budget of half a billion".

"The NCA must improve drastically in this area so that the returns achieved equate to the resources that are made available to it," it added.

In comments on a range of issues, the report said:

  • it was "too early to say" whether Mrs May's efforts to "declutter the landscape" of policing had been effective
  • creating the College of Policing was a "great idea" - but it faced "initial hurdles" and so was "not achieving the outcomes that it should be"
  • the cost of getting a "certificate of knowledge of policing" - a pre-entry requirement in some areas - was "putting off talented and diverse recruits"
  • the NCA inherited a backlog of abuse inquiry cases from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre - and it must address them with the "greatest of urgency"
  • the committee was "concerned" that some police forces felt they would "not be able to operate" with further spending cuts

In its conclusions, the report said all "major policing bodies have been overhauled and reformed" during the current Parliament.

'In the DNA'

"It is now time to allow these pieces of the policing puzzle to settle into the new landscape, so that they might achieve the aim of making policing more effective," it said.

The report said counter-terrorism had not found a "settled position" in the new structure, and a review should be carried out "early in the next Parliament" to address this.

It also said the policing code of ethics must be "in the DNA" of officers, so they should be required to acknowledge it by signing a copy and swearing an oath to the Queen.

The NCA's role is to lead the UK's "fight to cut serious and organised crime".

The organisation says it does not exist to raise funds, says BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, but insists that the value of going after criminal assets comes from its disruptive effect - derailing conspiracies and preventing further crimes being funded.

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