Belfast Telegraph

National Crime Agency: How the PSNI lost out on key support and resources

By Deborah McAleese

For the past 12 months, the PSNI has been pouring resources into major organised crime investigations that everywhere else in the UK are handled by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The UK-wide crime taskforce, described as the UK's FBI, was blocked from operating here after the SDLP and Sinn Fein failed to back a motion supporting it.

With the stalemate unresolved, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has warned his force is feeling the strain of having to carry out the work of the NCA.

The NCA took over from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in October 2013. Soca provided operational support to the PSNI's most complex investigations, including into organised crime and trafficking.

Soca also carried out its own investigations, focusing on criminals causing serious harm here. The PSNI had an insight into these investigations but was not required to provide resources.

But since the introduction of the NCA, the PSNI has had to take responsibility for any of the agency's Northern Ireland probes.

Justice Minister David Ford has been trying to resolve the impasse by submitting revised plans detailing operational and accountability measures to the main political parties .

Among the proposals is an arrangement whereby the head of the NCA would be compelled to appear before the Policing Board.

The NCA would also be required to secure permission from the PSNI before engaging in sensitive covert operations.

The issue has now also been scheduled for discussion during any all-party talks called by Westminster to break Stormont's welfare reform logjam.

Belfast Telegraph

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