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Organised crime strategy

The UK Government has brought out a new Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, to defend against the (according to the National Crime Agency) around 4,600 serious and organised crime groups in the UK. Such crime is estimated to cost the UK at least £37 billion annually; although as the strategy admits, much ‘remains hidden or underreported’. The document quotes a National Crime Agency (NCA) assessment that the threat from serious and organised crime is increasing.

The document speaks of a ‘revised approach’, putting ‘greater focus on the most dangerous offenders and the highest harm networks’. The strategy also aims for ‘one cohesive system’, arguing: “There is a direct link between the drugs being sold on our streets, including the violence linked to that trade, the networks trafficking vulnerable children and adults into the UK, the corrupt accountant laundering criminal funds through shell companies overseas, and corrupt politicians and state officials overseas who provide services and safe haven for international criminal networks.”

Likewise the document acknowledges how such criminals are ‘quick to exploit the rate of technological change and the globalisation of our society, whether it is live streaming of abuse or grooming children online, using malware to steal personal data, or exploiting free and open global trade to move illegal goods, people and money’, across borders. That the UK has made it easier to set up companies, for example, has been exploited by criminals ‘to set up UK-registered companies for illicit purposes’.

Home Office Security and Economic Crime Minister, Ben Wallace, said: “Serious and organised crime is the deadliest and most damaging national security threat faced by the UK. It undermines our economy, damages our international reputation and has a corrosive effect on individuals and communities.

“Many serious and organised criminals think they are above the law. This strategy is determined to challenge that assertion. Our new strategic approach not only improves our government and law enforcement capabilities, but also ensures that working with the private sector, the public and international partners are integrated as part of our response. And working together, implementing this new strategy, we will show them just how serious we are.”

Ben Wallace was joined by Lynne Owens, Director-General of the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Bob Wigley, Chair of banking trade body UK Finance at the launch event at The Shard in central London. Lynne Owens said: “The threat from serious and organised crime is changing rapidly, increasing in both volume and complexity. It now affects more UK citizens, more often, than any other national security threat.

“Tackling this ever-changing threat is a daunting task. This is why, as part of this strategy, we are introducing a new, revised operating model for law enforcement, which will allow us to drive more effective collaboration and prioritise tackling the issues that cause the most harm to the public. We welcome the funding injection for next year across law enforcement tackling serious and organised crime and look forward to further commitment to provide the resources needed to deliver this whole-system approach. Our ambition is to deliver a layered capability, from the local level through to the national, which will identify and exploit the best opportunities to tackle serious and organised crime and stop the harm it inflicts on the UK public.”

And Bob Wigley said: “Stemming the flow of illicit finance that underpins serious and organised crime is an absolutely priority for the UK’s banking and finance sector. Banks already spend over £5 billion a year fighting economic crime, constantly developing new approaches and finding more effective methods, but there is more we can all do.”

On that point, the strategy describes a ‘realistic possibility’ that the scale of money laundering impacting the UK annually is in the tens of billions of pounds. “This presents significant reputational risk to the integrity of the UK’s financial sector, which is essential for global trade and our long-term prosperity. Professionals such as lawyers and accountants are an important part of the response to serious and organised crime. However, whether
complicit, negligent or unwitting, professional enablers are also key facilitators in the money laundering process”. The document describes lawyers, accountants and estate agents as ‘professional enablers’ for such crime.

For the 70-page strategy document (which replaces the earlier, 2013 strategy) visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-and-organised-crime-strategy-2018.

Comments

Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “Serious and organised crime blights communities and destroys lives. A comprehensive and detailed strategy to combat it would be very welcome but unfortunately what the Government offers is not that. Organised crime requires a highly co-ordinated international response and relies on significant resources and staffing, yet the Government has cut 21,000 police officers and there was nothing in the Budget to reverse that. This is a record of failure and a consequence of Tory cuts. Labour takes serious and organised crime seriously, and will provide increased resources and officers to tackle it.”

At the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Mark Burns-Williamson, Chair and Lead PCC on Serious Violent Crime said PCCs will support the updated strategy. “There are huge societal costs associated with serious organised crime and we support moves to develop a more cohesive system-wide response which works across local, regional, national and international networks. PCCs are already driving forward work on a multiagency basis across a number of areas, including through the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network (NATMSN) which seeks to tackle modern slavery, specifically facilitating the development of best practice, information and intelligence sharing, and support for victims.”

And at the Local Government Association, chair of its Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Simon Blackburn said: “Councils play a key role in tackling organised crime such as serious violence and modern slavery, and protecting children and vulnerable adults from exploitation. It is good that the Government acknowledges this in the strategy, but what we really need to see is long-term investment in local services, so we can identify signs of exploitation and intervene at an early stage. This isn’t just about law enforcement, but communities too.

“Only with the right funding and powers can councils continue to make a difference to people’s lives, by supporting families and young people, and helping to tackle serious violent crime in our local communities.”


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