National Crime Agency having ‘positive effect’ in Northern Ireland
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) is already having “positive effects” in Northern Ireland, according to Justice Minister David Ford.
Speaking to BBC News ahead of a cross-border seminar on organised crime in Sligo, Mr Ford said the UK-wide force had helped tackle organised crime, trafficking and sexual offences since it became fully operational in Northern Ireland in May.
Mr Ford also said the NCA brought a “joint-up approach and international reach” to policing in Northern Ireland.
He added: “There are cases of gangs - a number from central and eastern Europe which are attempting to operate in Northern Ireland, we’ve seen that in things like attacks on ATM cash machines, we’ve seen it in a variety of ways involving human trafficking.
“But with the use of the NCA in its international context, we now have a much better fight than we had even up to the spring this year.”
The National Crime Agency was set up in 2013, but it did not have jurisdiction in Northern Ireland due to the opposition of Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP).
Its powers were extended to Northern Ireland following talks which led the SDLP to change its position earlier this year.
Mr Ford said the delay in extending the NCA’s jurisdiction exacerbated growth in organised crime last year.
The Organised Crime Task Force last year said that international crime gangs were making Northern Ireland a “UN of criminality”.
Mr Ford said: “There is no doubt that part of that situation that was highlighted last year was the fact that we didn’t have the National Crime Agency operational, we therefore didn’t have the opportunity to seize assets in the way that was possible in every other jurisdictions in these islands.”