Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

National Crime Agency will not be some shadowy new force, it will be an international crimebusting partner

There is still time for a soft landing on the National Crime Agency issue and there is no excuse if our politicians cannot agree one with London.

Nationalists are fearful of a new and unaccountable police force, but that is neither inevitable nor even likely. The NCA takes over from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which had operated here for some years without treading on the PSNI's toes. In fact, it was a valued ally and there have been few complaints about it.

Customs and Revenue also operate outside the control of the Policing Board and there have been no practical difficulties.

David Ford, our Justice Minister, has already met Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who has agreed several concessions to local feeling. These can be built on.

The head of the new agency will meet the Policing Board at least annually and will act through the PSNI by agreement. This person will not have the "powers of a constable" here, and if involved in counter-terrorism operations will only act with the PSNI's agreement.

The NCA will not be involved with homegrown terrorism. It would only ever come into play if an international terrorist group, such as al-Qaida, was using Northern Ireland as a base or targeting it. It will, however, target fuel laundering gangs. It will target organised crime, ranging from trafficking gangs to the lucrative drugs and cigarette smuggling empires.

The PSNI needs the help of a larger agency, with national and international reach.

Crime respects no borders and takes no account of devolved areas of responsibilities.

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