National Crime Agency chief named after recruitment process re-run

Graeme Biggar was one of two candidates endorsed in the initial selection process, with the other dropping out when the Home Office decided to run it again
NCA interim director general Graeme Biggar. Photo: NCA

By Tevye Markson

17 Aug 2022

Priti Patel has appointed the next chief of the National Crime Agency after re-running the recruitment process.

Graeme Biggar, who was already interim director general of the NCA, will take on the five-year role and is set to receive a salary of £223,000.

Biggar, who has led the agency since October, was chosen despite reports that No.10 had asked for the process to be restarted because Boris Johnson wanted former Met Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe to get the job.

“I am delighted to have been asked to lead the National Crime Agency,” Biggar said.

“It has been a privilege to lead our officers over the past ten months. I will continue to support them in protecting the public while ensuring we operate with the highest integrity and standards,” he added.

During his time as interim director general, Biggar has driven the UK’s crackdowns on kleptocracy, illicit finance and child sexual abuse, the Home Office said. Biggar’s focus in the coming years will be on cybercrime and bringing down organised crime groups who peddle drugs and illegal firearms and exploit vulnerable people, the department added.

Announcing the hire, Patel praised Biggar’s achievements as interim chief. 

“From dismantling people smuggling networks through to the biggest illegal migration law enforcement operation across Europe to bringing the monsters who sexually abuse children in the UK and abroad to justice, Graeme and his remarkable NCA team have an outstanding track record of delivery,” the home secretary said.

“The UK’s NCA is world leading and in a formidable position to tackle some of the most complex global threats we face and to help make our streets and our country safer,” she added.

The initial recruitment process was launched in December after Dame Lynne Owens announced she would step down as NCA chief after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Biggar and Neil Basu – the former head of UK counter-terrorism policing – were selected by the interview panel as the preferred candidates for the role. But Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told the duo in May they would not be chosen and the process would be repeated, according to reports.

Basu, who would have become the first person of Asian heritage to lead a UK law enforcement organisation, said at the time he was “disappointed” in the decision and would not apply again.

Hogan-Howe, a vocal supporter of Johnson, also reportedly ruled himself out after critics raised concerns of cronyism and his record as Met Police commissioner.  

The Home Office said Biggar was chosen "after a fair and open recruitment process".

Before becoming interim chief of the NCA, Biggar was director general of National Economic Crime Centre from 2019 and 2021. He has also served as director for national security at the Home Office and chief of staff to the defence secretary.

Biggar helped to shape the response to the 2017 terrorist attacks and the Salisbury poisoning attack. As director of national security at the Home Office, he oversaw the implementation of the Investigatory Powers Act, known as the Snoopers’ Charter.

The NCA, a non-ministerial department with around 5,500 officers based in the UK and abroad, is independent from the Home Office but accountable to the home secretary.

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