National Crime Agency

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This article is about the United Kingdom law enforcement agency. For the former Australian agency, see National Crime Authority.
National Crime Agency
Abbreviation NCA
National Crime Agency logo.png
Logo of the National Crime Agency.
Agency overview
Formed 7 October 2013
Preceding agencies
Annual budget £464 million (2014/2015)[1]
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Map of the National Crime Agency's jurisdiction.svg
National Crime Agency's jurisdiction
Population 63,181,775[2]
Legal jurisdiction Full in England and Wales; limited in Northern Ireland and Scotland
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters 1-7 Old Queen St, London, United Kingdom
Officers 4,500
Elected officer responsible Theresa May, Home Secretary
Agency executive Keith Bristow, Director-General
Parent agency Home Office
Child agencies

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is a national law enforcement agency in the United Kingdom which replaced the Serious Organised Crime Agency. It became fully operational on 7 October 2013[3] and is a non-ministerial government department.[4] The NCA includes the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre as an individual command, and parts of the National Policing Improvement Agency. Some of the responsibilities of the UK Border Agency relating to border policing also became part of the NCA.[5]

It is the UK's lead agency against organised crime; human, weapon and drug trafficking; cyber crime; and economic crime that goes across regional and international borders, but can be tasked to investigate any crime. The NCA has a strategic role in which it looks at the bigger picture across the UK, analysing how criminals are operating and how they can be disrupted. To do this it works closely with regional organised crime units (ROCUs), the Serious Fraud Office, as well as individual police forces. It is the UK point of contact for foreign agencies such as Interpol, Europol and other international law enforcement agencies.

The Home Office estimates that there are some 37,000 people in 5,500 groups that are involved in organised crime in the UK. This causes an overall loss to the UK economy of around £24 billion a year.

The NCA has also taken on a range of functions from the National Policing Improvement Agency that has been scrapped as part of the government's changes to policing. These include a specialist database relating to injuries and unusual weapons, expert research on potential serial killers, and the National Missing Persons Bureau. The agencies going into the NCA had a combined budget of £812m, yet the new agency only had £464m in its first year, so the new agency had already had an almost 50% cut before it had started operating.[6]

Like its predecessor SOCA, the NCA has been dubbed the "British FBI" by the media. The NCA Director-General, Keith Bristow, has the power to direct regional police chiefs to concentrate their resources where necessary,[7] effectively making him the most senior police officer in the country.[8]

The NCA has over 4,500 officers, and an annual budget for 2014/2015 of £464 million.[9]


The proposed agency was first publicly announced in a statement to the House of Commons by Home Secretary Theresa May on 26 July 2010.[10] On 8 June 2011 Theresa May declared that the NCA will comprise a number of distinct operational commands: Organised Crime, Border Policing, Economic Crime and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre - and that it will house the National Cyber Crime Unit. She added that capabilities, expertise, assets and intelligence will be shared across the new agency; that each Command will operate as part of one single organisation; and that the NCA will be a powerful body of operational crime fighters, led by a senior Chief Constable and accountable to the Home Secretary. In her statement to the House of Commons, Theresa May stated that the new agency would have the authority to "undertake tasking and coordination, ensuring appropriate action is taken to put a stop to the activities of organised crime groups".[11]

In June 2011, the coalition government announced that SOCA's operations (serious drug trafficking investigative and intelligence sections) would be merged into a larger National Crime Agency to launch in 2013.

On 23 September 2011 the Home Affairs Select Committee called for the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism role be given to the NCA when it becomes operational saying that the terrorist threat is a "national problem" and that there would be "advantages" in transferring responsibility.[12][13] The Metropolitan police raised concerns around the cost of such a move.[14]

The Home affairs select committee met again on 9 May 2014 to discuss counter terrorism.[15] As a part of the report the committee reconsidered the question of moving counter terrorism responsibilities to the NCA. The committee came to conclusion that “The Metropolitan Police have a wide remit which has many complexities and the current difficulties faced by the organisation lead us to believe that the responsibility for counter-terrorism ought to be moved to the NCA in order to allow the Met to focus on the basics of policing London. The work to transfer the command ought to begin immediately with a view to a full transfer of responsibility for counter-terrorism operations taking place, for example within five years after the NCA became operational, in 2018. When this takes place, it should finally complete the jigsaw of the new landscape of policing.”[16][17]

However the report acknowledges that the NCA is still a new agency and that at the moment it is not fully operational in Northern Ireland. Questions have been raised as to how effective this model would be[18] and, with a limited budget, whether other responsibilities would suffer and not be resourced as properly as they should be.[19] If the whole of Counter terrorism command were to transfer from the Metropolitan police to the NCA, the NCA would receive a further 1,500 officers or more if other counter terrorism units transferred in as well.[20] It raises the question of what other National police units could be absorbed into the NCA, such as the National Wildlife Crime Unit and other units with a national remit from ACPO, the Metropolitan Police and other forces. Plans are being discussed for the second time of moving the Serious Fraud Office into the NCA.[21]

The process of looking at moving counter terrorism into the NCA was put on hold on the 9th October 2014 by the Home secretary Theresa May due to an increase in the terror threat level.[22]

In October 2011, it was announced that Keith Bristow, the then Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police, would head the organisation.[23]

The NCA came into being under provisions granted by the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013.[24]

On 22 May 2014 at around 22:50, NCA Officers were involved in a shootout in Tottenham.[25] Several shots were fired, including from NCA Officers. Two men were arrested at the scene by the NCA for attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. The Metropolitan police arrived and arrested a third man for possession of a firearm.[26][27] This is believed to be the first incident in which NCA officers fired shots.

On 25 May 2014 at 00:00 hrs, a second NCA operation was carried out in Tottenham, along with officers from the Metropolitan police, after the NCA received intelligence about the shoot out that had occurred 3 nights earlier. Two more men were arrested, one for attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and the other for assisting an offender, after their car was stopped by armed officers. One shot was fired by a Metropolitan police officer during the operation.[28]

In May 2014 the NCA conducted a major operation that resulted in the seizing of more than 100 kg of cocaine from a Greek bulker in Scotland. The ship had been returning from Colombia and has resulted in the arrest of three men yet to be publicly named.[29]

In July 2014 the NCA with partners jointly disrupted the Shylock banking trojan believed to have infected at least 30,000 computers.[30]

Also in July 2014 the NCA co-ordinated the arrest of 660 suspected paedophiles. 39 of those arrested were registered sex offenders, however the majority had not previously come to the attention of law enforcement. 400 children are believed to have been protected by this operation, which included taking down several individuals who had unsupervised access to children such as doctors, teachers and care workers.[31][32][33]

Organisational Structure[edit]

Organization chart for the NCA

The NCA is organised into 8 operational branches, overseen by 7 directors, who are in turn overseen by a Director-General, assisted by a Deputy Director General.[34] The commands are as follows:

  • Border Policing Command
  • CEOP Command
  • Economic Crime Command
  • Organised Crime Command
  • Intelligence
  • Operations
  • Specialist Capabilities
  • Proceeds of Crime Centre

The Assets Recovery Agency became part of the Serious Organised Crime Agency from April 2008. This then became the Proceeds of Crime Centre in the NCA. The power to launch civil recovery proceedings has also been extended to the three main prosecutors in England and Wales; the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). It will also be extended to the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland.

  • Missing Persons Bureau

The Missing Persons Bureau (MPB) transferred to SOCA in April 2012 along with SCAS. It had previously been based at New Scotland Yard until April 2008 when it was moved to the NPIA and based in Bramshill.

The bureau acts as the centre for the exchange of information connected with the search for missing persons nationally and internationally. It is responsible for cross-matching missing persons with unidentified persons or bodies, as well as maintaining an index of dental records of missing persons and unidentified bodies.

The MPB also manages a missing persons and Child Rescue Alert website, and analyses data to identify trends and patterns in disappearances.

    • UK Human Trafficking Centre
    • National Injuries Database

The National Injuries Database also transferred from the NPIA. It provides additional support to police forces by providing analysis of weapons and wounds, and seeking to identify similarities to aid investigators in determining which weapon may have been used. The database holds over 4,000 cases of suspicious deaths, murders and clinical cases, and contains over 20,000 images.

    • Central Bureau
    • Chemical Suspicious Activity Reports
    • UK Financial Intelligence Unit

SOCA via the UK Financial Intelligence Unit took over responsibility for dealing with suspicious activity reports (SARs), previously made to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) under the money laundering legislation. This function is now part of NCA.

NCIS received just under 200,000 SARs in 2005 and throughout its active life was widely critical of the banking and financial services sector, and the Financial Services Authority, for not being more transparent or forthcoming in reporting their customers suspicious activity.

Despite criticism from professional representative bodies that the disclosure rules are too broad, SOCA said that up to one in three SARs lead to or add substantially to terrorism investigations; that HMRC estimates that around one in five SARs identifies new subjects of interest, and one in four SARs lead to direct tax enquiries; and that many arrests and confiscations of criminal assets.

  • Serious Crime Analysis Section

The Serious Crime Analysis Section moved to SOCA from the National Policing Improvement Agency on 1 April 2012 in advance of the planned establishment of the National Crime Agency in 2013. SCAS is based at Foxley Hall in the grounds of the Police Staff College, Bramshill in Hampshire.[35] It was originally formed by the Home Office in 1998 to identify the potential emergence of serial killers and serial rapists at the earliest stage of their offending. This scope has since broadened to include the analysis by specialist staff of rapes, serious sexual assaults and motiveless or sexually motivated murders.

Criminal case files are received by SCAS from all police forces in the UK at an early stage in the investigations. The information is coded and placed on a single database, ViCLAS (Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System). The system was developed in Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The investigating officer receives a report from a crime analyst with a number of key elements designed to assist the investigation. It will identify if there are grounds to believe that the offender has previously been identified. It will also provide a breakdown of the behaviour exhibited in the offence, often with a statistical description of some of the elements involved. This can alert an investigator to the importance of some aspects of the offence not immediately apparent. SCAS are also responsible for identifying good practice, or "what works", so the analyst's report may contain "investigative suggestions" that might guide the officer to a specific line of enquiry not yet considered. The report may also suggest possible suspects that the unit has identified from a number of databases. When a prime suspect has been identified and charged with an offence, senior analysts are able to provide specialist evidence in court, to assist with the prosecution of offenders.

  • National Cyber Crime Unit
  • International Partnership[36]
    • UK National Central Bureau for INTERPOL
    • UK Europol National Unit
    • UK SIRENE Bureau

The NCA is the UK Singlepoint of contact for Interpol, Europol and the Schengen Information System and also the point of contact for International enquiries from all UK Police and law enforcement agencies. It has 24/7 capacity for Interpol and Europol with direct connections to their databases, provides international Liaison Officers and Coordinates all inbound and outbound Cross Border Surveillance requests with Schengen partners. It also has a Dedicated Fugitives Unit that acts as the UK Central Authority for all European Arrest Warrants (EAW).

Board of Directors[edit]

Role Post holder
Director-General (Chair) Keith Bristow, QPM
Deputy Director General Phil Gormley
Director, Border Policing Command David Armond
Director CEOP Command Johnny Gwynne
Director of Intelligence Gordon Meldrum QPM
Director of Investigations Command Trevor Pearce CBE, QPM
Director of NOVO Transformation Programme Tim Symington
Director of Organised Crime Command Ian Cruxton
Director of Economic Crime Command Donald Toon
Director of Corporate Services (Interim) Sue Steen
Non-executive Director Jane Furniss
Non-executive Director Jonathan Evans
Non-executive Director Dr Stephen Page
Non-executive Director Justin Dowley


Within the United Kingdom the NCA has full operational capacity only in England and Wales. The NCA's operations and powers in Scotland are limited to those inherited from its predecessor, the Serious Organised Crime Agency whose powers to operate in Scotland were conditional on authorisation from and/or co-operation with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (a police force which was responsible for similar matters in Scotland and which has since been subsumed into Police Scotland) or the Lord Advocate.

In Northern Ireland, the agency will carry out border and customs functions only, with its other roles left to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. This is due to the fact that under the 1998 Good Friday agreement that led to a political settlement and power-sharing in Northern Ireland, policing was subjected to a far higher degree of community oversight and monitoring than in other parts of the UK. The chief constable and officers are responsible to the Policing Board. However the NCA answers directly to the Home Secretary, meaning there can be no local oversight or control - and nationalist parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly said that it could operate as a parallel but unaccountable police force.[37][38]

Consequently the NCA is subject to scrutiny by the relevant British bodies, as well as their Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts; this includes the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, and the Northern Irish Assembly.

In Northern Ireland there is currently a political argument taking place as to whether or not to allow the NCA to be fully operational in Northern Ireland.[39][40][41]

Powers of arrest[edit]

NCA Officers can be designated the powers of a constable, customs officer, immigration officer, or any combination of these three sets of powers.

Current reported operations[edit]

The NCA has been tasked to investigating child sex allegation in Rotherham after several high profile cases.[42] A report into the issue found that around 1400 children in the town had been abused between 1997 and 2013.[43]


  1. ^ "NCA Annual Report 2014/2015". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "2011 UK censuses". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "National Crime Agency". GOV.UK. 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "How we are run". NCA. 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Police reform proposals outlined". BBC News. 26 July 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Johnston, Philip (7 October 2013). "The National Crime Agency: Does Britain need an FBI?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Hughes, Mark; Gardham, Duncan (8 June 2011). "National Crime Agency head will be 'most powerful officer in UK'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "NCA Annual Report 2014/2015". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Theresa May, Home Secretary (26 July 2010). |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 723–724. 
  11. ^ "National Crime Agency details outlined by Theresa May". BBC News. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Home Affairs Committee (23 September 2011). New Landscape of Policing: Volume 1 (Report). London: The Stationery Office. p. 43. Retrieved 12 August 2013. Although London is a prime target for terrorist attacks, the terrorist threat is a national problem and there would be advantages in placing responsibility for counter-terrorism in the National Crime Agency 
  13. ^ "Met Police counter-terrorism role should end, MPs say". BBC News Online. BBC News. 23 September 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Counter Terrorism Command
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "UK National Crime Agency head to be Keith Bristow". BBC News. 10 October 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  24. ^ "Crime and Courts Bill receives Royal Assent". Home Office. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Law enforcement and industry collaborate to combat Shylock malware". National Crime Agency. 2014-07-10. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  31. ^ "UK-wide operation snares 660 suspected paedophiles". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "NCA - How we are run". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ "NCA - Working in Partnership". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  37. ^
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External links[edit]