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The great British F.B.I. farce – yawn, we’ve already seen it

From this week, criminal gangs operating in Britain will (I suppose) be really afraid. Because this week sees the launch of the much vaunted £500m a year National Crime Agency (NCA). The Government has promised that the NCA will be “a powerful new body”, “a British F.B.I.” that will “tackle organised crime”. Several newspapers informed us, ‘Britain to get new FBI-style police force to tackle organised crime’. Phew, that’s a relief for law-abiding citizens.

But hold on a minute. When the NCA’s predecessor, the £400m a year Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), was launched by the Blair government in 2006 we were told….Yes, you guessed it…..SOCA would be “a powerful new body”, “a British F.B.I.” that would “tackle organised crime”. The newspapers trumpeted “Blair unveils plan for British F.B.I.”

SOCA combined the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the investigative arms of Customs and Excise and the Immigration Service. It employed around 4,200 police, customs and immigration experts. Blair promised that the new organisation would be ‘ruthless’, would make life ‘hell’ for crime’s ‘Mr Bigs’ and that now it was time to ‘stop trying to fight twenty-first century crime by early twentieth century methods’. Home Secretary Charles Clarke assured us that SOCA would be a ‘step change’ in the fight against organised crime and that it ‘would be a powerful new body working across organisational boundaries and focusing resources where problems were the greatest’.

With SOCA, the government promised us tough police ruthlessly pursuing the baddies. Instead we got massive bureaucracy, infighting and widespread corruption which prevented the few honest SOCA staff from achieving any progress against the crime lords who were paying massive bribes to SOCA bosses

By 2008, in its annual report, SOCA admitted that progress against crime had been ‘uneven’. That’s bureaucratese for ‘we haven’t a clue what we’re doing, but we get big salaries and early retirement with generous pensions, so please don’t look too closely at our bungling and ineptitude’.

When “son of SOCA” – the NCA – was proposed, Home Secretary Theresa May told us, ‘we will create a powerful new body of operational crime-fighters in the shape of a National Crime Agency, which will harness and exploit the intelligence, analytical and enforcement capabilities of the current law enforcement agencies’.

So how will “son of SOCA” perform?

Or will “son of SOCA” just follow in its father’s shameful footsteps?

When the formation of the NCA was announced, in what must have been one of the best headlines of the year, one newspaper reported “British F.B.I. to replace British F.B.I.”

Perhaps the increasing number of British and foreign criminal gangs operating in Britain won’t be so afraid after all?

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