National Crime Agency DG seeks funding boost to tackle ‘chronic and corrosive’ threat

Lynne Owens says £2.7bn funding boost in forthcoming Spending Review will help tackle £37bn annual cost of serious and organised crime


By Richard Johnstone

14 May 2019

National Crime Agency/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The National Crime Agency has called for a funding boost for policing in the forthcoming Spending Review to tackle serious and organised crime – which represents “the deadliest threat facing the nation”.

Publishing an assessment of the scale of the problem in the UK, NCA director general Lynne Owens said that there are at least 181,000 offenders linked to serious and organised crime in the UK, which she said is creating a “chronic and corrosive” threat.

In a report published ahead of the Spending Review planned for later this year, Owens said that an extra £2.7bn was needed every year in order for police forces around the country and the NCA to combat the criminals.


Of this, she called for £650m to go the NCA. She highlighted that this sum was less than the weekly cost of serious and organised crime.

“Serious and organised crime affects more UK citizens, more frequently than any other national security threat. And it costs the UK at least £37bn a year – equivalent to nearly £2,000 per family,” she said.

“We need significant further investment to keep pace with the growing scale and complexity.

“Enhancing our capabilities is critical to our national security. If we don’t, the whole of UK law enforcement, and therefore the public, will feel the consequences.

“Some will say we cannot afford to provide more investment, but I say we cannot afford not to.”

The National Strategic Assessment published today draws on information and intelligence from government departments, the intelligence community and the private and voluntary sectors, as well as police forces, to reveal the scale of the problem.


The review found that the hierarchies of old-style crime gangs have become fragmented as more dynamic groups of younger offenders use technology to carry out crimes while still using violence.

For example, the review found use of the dark web and encryption to cloak offending has grown significantly, with crypto-currencies increasingly used to launder dirty money.

Elsewhere, the report highlighted there are nearly 2.9 million accounts registered on the worst child sexual abuse sites on the dark web worldwide, of which 5% are believed to be based in the UK, while the number of referrals to the NCA warning of online child sexual abuse and exploitation have increased by 700% since 2012.

“The organised criminals of today are indiscriminate – they care less about what types of crime they’re involved in, as long as it makes them a profit,” said Owens.

“These groups are preying on the most vulnerable in society, including young children and the elderly – those most unable to protect themselves.”

The review set three priorities for the law enforcement response to the threats: tackling those who exploit the vulnerable through child sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking, servitude, fraud and other forms of abuse; those who dominate communities and chase profits in the criminal marketplace using violence or criminal reputation in the supply of drugs and firearms; and those who undermine the UK’s economy, integrity, infrastructure and institutions through their criminality.

Such an approach needs additional funding, Owens said.

“Visible, front-line policing is vital to public safety, but the reality is that we will not defeat serious and organised crime with beat officers alone.

“Some of the capabilities we need are most effectively and efficiently delivered at the local or regional level. The NCA must deliver others on a national basis, providing the right agencies with the right capabilities at the right time to deliver maximum impact.

“The choice is stark. Failing to invest will result in the gradual erosion of our capabilities and our ability to protect the public.”

A Spending Review was planned for this summer, but chancellor Philip Hammond has warned that it could be delayed if there has been no progress on Brexit, meaning that department’s existing budgets would likely be extended for a year.

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