Belfast Telegraph

Assembly divided over Crime Agency

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been left deadlocked over proposals for the National Crime Agency (NCA) to operate in the region.

Alliance Justice spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has said the failure to agree to sign up to the UK-wide body will make it harder for police to deal with organised crime.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein blocked plans for the Assembly to pass a motion allowing it to operate because they want to keep control over policing powers.

Mr Dickson said: "The decision to block Northern Ireland's participation in the National Crime Agency will come back to bite those who are opposed to it. This will make it much more difficult to deal with organised crimes in our community.

"The alternative to the NCA operating in Northern Ireland is a bigger burden on an already overstretched PSNI.

"It will fragment efforts to tackle crime nationally and internationally and, quite frankly, make us a laughing stock across the border and throughout Europe."

He said organised crime was increasingly trans-national, with no respect for borders, and crime groups are quick to take advantage of differences in legal codes or state capabilities across borders to accomplish their ends.

"We have witnessed this when people traffickers have used countries with lax immigration controls as transit states, and when thieves and smugglers have exploited flaws in border controls," he added.

"Crime groups are quick to catch on to weaknesses."

The Executive has also been polarised over the issue, with unionists favouring joining the agency and nationalists concerned about diluting the powers of the PSNI.

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