US-STYLE CRIME AGENCY BOSS NAMED

A former Warwickshire Police chief constable will lead a US-style National Crime Agency to tackle serious and organisedcrime and protect the UK’s borders which will be enshrined in laws unveiled by the Queen on Wednesday.

The agency has already been announced as a replacement for the Serious Organised CrimeAgency (Soca), which itself was heralded as ‘Britain’s FBI’ when it was launched by Labour in 2006.

A Crime and Courts Bill will establish the NCA to tackle serious, organised and complex crime, enhance border security, and tackle the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and cyber crime.

The NCA, headed by former Warwickshire Police chief constable Keith Bristow, will also take in the work of the National Missing Persons Bureau.

Critics have warned the NCA will be too large to be effective.

The Government has said too many of the 38,000 individuals and 6,000 gangs involved in organised crime, which costs the UK up to £40 billion a year, have escaped justice.

But Labour sources said the agency was “fundamentally a reorganisation of Soca” and added they were concerned that the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) was being scrapped.

They said: “According to documents from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, the maintenance and delivery of the police national computer will pass to the NCA – suggesting that rather than crime-fighting, it will have an increased administrative role previously delivered by the NPIA.

“Chief constables are very concerned that scrapping bodies like the NPIA will mean losing focus on crime-fighting and worrying about the delivery of training, IT and other services instead.”

The Bill will strengthen powers of UK Border Force officers and introduce the offence of drug-driving. Powers will also be brought in to enable magistrates to dispense summary neighbourhood justice and the system for paying fines will be changed so offenders, not taxpayers, incur the cost of delaying payment.

Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales, broadly welcomed the move.

Mr Leech said: “I know form my days as an offender that increasing the certainty of detection is a vital element in reducing crime.

“A national focus on a small number of issues is likely to bring more benefits than costs in doing this – but the danger is that it will become swamped with cases and in an era of budget cuts not have the resources to deliver.”