Leak reveals contempt for British 'FBI'

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An elite police unit set up as Britain's answer to the FBI is viewed with contempt and distrust by police and customs officers, according to a suppressed Home Office report.

The report, which has been leaked to The Independent, says the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), set up to co-ordinate the fight against organised crime, is derided by detectives from forces around Britain and regional crime squads.

Senior Customs officers, it adds, said their staff threatened to mutiny when asked to work alongside the unit.

The findings of the report, which is marked confidential and will not be published, are alarming in view of future plans to expand the NCIS and give it greater powers.

The unit, which is based in London, is to form the basis of the new national crime squad being set up by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to fight organised crime, including the activities in Britain of international drugs cartels and the Russian and Italian mafias. A Home Office source said that a toned-down version of the report will be passed to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

The report is based on 299 interviews with police and customs officers and civil servants. They revealed that many police and customs intelligence units do not trust the NCIS enough to give it information. One regional crime squad detective inspector said that he viewed the filing of information to the NCIS as a waste of time. "I saw no value in it whatsoever for me as an operational manager," he said.

Customs officers were even more hostile. The report states: "It appears there were grave concerns [in Customs] about the uses to which NCIS would put any data supplied to them."

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Burdis, head of CID at South Yorkshire police, said: "Many people say that NCIS is not delivering what the police service of this country requires. It markets itself well with glossy literature but it needs actual sincere, genuine, working relationships [with police forces] who actually want to work together. I am not sure we have achieved that."

Sir Ron Hadfield, who retired this summer as chief constable of the West Midlands, said the NCIS was not up to the job of taking on organised crime and international drug trafficking.

The report was commissioned from Dick Hobbs and Colin Dunnighan, criminologists based at Durham University. They report that "we came upon a great deal of animosity" directed towards NCIS.

The report has caused great concern at the Home Office. One insider said: "This is the intelligence arm of the new national crime squad and it's in a shambles."

A second critical report, which has already been passed to the ACPO, attacks the NCIS for its failings in combating the activities of paedophiles and those engaged in sex tourism.

The study on European Police Co-operation, written by Dr Paul Norman of the Centre for Legal Studies at Sussex University, accuses the NCIS of failing to pick up the movements of paedophiles who move address from one police force area to another.

It accuses the NCIS of devoting "few resources" to fighting sex tourism and being interested only in disrupting sex tourists' activities rather than helping to secure convictions.