The Queen's Speech: National crime agency unveiled to protect UK's borders

 

A US-style National Crime Agency to tackle serious and organised crime and protect the UK's borders will be enshrined in laws unveiled by the Queen today.

The agency has already been announced as a replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (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.

The Government is considering whether the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Services Authority should be merged into the new agency.

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.

"And the Home Secretary (Theresa May) has refused in parliamentary questions to confirm the budget for the NCA. With the loss of 16,000 officers, further cuts to the reorganised body will only undermine it even further."

The sources added: "Re-announcing, for the third time, a reorganisation of our country's organised crime agency is not going to cut it for the public who are worried about the loss of their local bobbies on the beat."

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.

Courts will also be reformed, enabling judges to move between courts more efficiently and allowing television cameras into courtrooms to help demystify the justice system.

The Bill will also reform judicial appointments to improve transparency and diversity.

PA

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