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Serious Organised Crime Agency

Volume 712: debated on Monday 13 July 2009


My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Reduction (Alan Campbell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am laying before Parliament the Government's new Serious Organised Crime Strategy—Extending Our Reach: A Comprehensive Approach to Tackling Serious Organised Crime. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

Serious organised crime is a large and growing problem. Trafficking in drugs and people, fraud and financial crime cost the UK Exchequer in the region of £30 billion a year. However, the impact of organised crime is not remote: its victims range from those whose lives are ruined by drug addiction to women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. If it is allowed to take root, organised crime can create a vicious downward spiral of fear, intimidation and economic decline, which tends to harm the most vulnerable members of society in some of our most deprived communities. So as well as being a question of national security, organised crime is also a question of social justice.

Since publication of the 2004 White Paper One Step Ahead the police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies have made significant progress in the fight against organised crime. It is no exaggeration to say that the UK is a world leader in this area. However, five years on, serious organised crime continues to evolve. We are facing new high-tech crimes that did not exist five years ago and organised criminals are increasingly basing themselves in weak and failing states to avoid detection and traffic their drugs.

This means that now is the right time to update and strengthen our response. Today's strategy sets out the reforms we will make to ensure that Government, law enforcement, businesses and citizens are equipped with the necessary tools to reduce the harm caused by organised crime. We will go further than ever before in taking the fight to organised criminals through four key approaches.

First, we will ensure that all organised criminals are within our reach. Using new techniques to create a radically improved intelligence picture, we will take action against all organised criminals, making the principle of lifetime management a reality—from the traditionally “hard to touch” at the top end, through to the long tail operating at the lower end of the organised crime spectrum.

Secondly, we will consider all approaches to tackling organised crime. We will use whatever tools work best to have maximum impact. Whenever we can we will prosecute. But we will also go further in using non-criminal proceedings—administrative, immigration, regulatory or tax powers—to disrupt the activities of those involved in serious organised crime and do even more to recover their finances and assets.

Thirdly, we will ensure that the whole of Government play their part in the fight against organised crime. We will strengthen the criminal justice system approach (from prevention through to imprisonment) and also bring to bear the powers of agencies working outside of law enforcement—like local authorities or bodies such as the DVLA, the Health and Safety Executive, or local housing offices—to combat organised crime together.

Finally, we will maximise collective efforts overseas—from capacity building in states at risk from organised crime through to strengthening multilateral institutions. Similarly, we will work closer with the private sector, for example, in preventing e-crime, and with the public to engage their help in the response.

Serious organised crime threatens our safety, damages our communities and subverts our economy. The magnitude, scope and sophistication of serious organised crime in the 21st century demand an equally sophisticated and ambitious response from Government to tackle it.

Both government departments and law enforcement agencies will have a key role to play in implementing this strategy. That is why I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Sir Ian Andrews as the new chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. I believe that Sir Ian has the necessary skills and experience to help guide SOCA through the coming years, so that it can play a full part in delivering this strategy.