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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

April 3, 2006: SOCA Arrives

A new crime-fighting agency will target the biggest criminals using a "sophisticated 21st century approach", according to Prime Minister Tony Blair today.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is a new law enforcement agency created to reduce the harm caused in the UK by serious organised crime. It will focus on those who make fortunes from drugs, human trafficking, major fraud and counterfeiting. The new agency merges the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) and the National Crime Squad (NCS) with the investigative work of Customs on serious drug trafficking, and officers from the UK Immigration Service (UKIS) .

The Prime Minister said SOCA would take a "sophisticated, integrated approach" to tackle the "tyranny" of the most serious criminals. Anti-social behaviour and petty crime needed one form of policing, he stressed, organised crime needed another. Drug and people smuggling, fraud, money laundering and ID theft reaches into every neighbourhood, damages communities, and nets £20bn each year for those responsible - £300 for every person in the UK. According to Mr Blair:

"Crime damages people's liberty. Victims have to be paramount. We have to stop trying to fight 21st century crime with 20th century methods."

Home Secretary Charles Clarke commented:

"SOCA is a powerful new law enforcement organisation which will work across operational boundaries and will focus its resources on where the harms are the greatest."

SOCA brings with it four new powers - on Queen's Evidence, Financial Reporting Orders, Disclosure Notices and the creation of officers with combined powers. It will have a budget of more than £400 million a year. SOCA will have around 4000 investigators. The agency's chairman, Sir Stephen Lander, was once head of MI5, and its director-general, Bill Hughes, is the former head of the National Crime Squad. SOCA assumed its functions on Saturday 1 April 2006.

Prosecutors will now be able to strike deals with suspects within a statutory footing, offering either immunity from prosecution or reduction in sentence in return for co-operation. This will provide a strong incentive for those further down the 'food chain' to give evidence against the most powerful heads of organised criminal networks.

It is hoped this will lead to the arrest and imprisonment of more senior figures which in turn will help to make the UK a more difficult place to do business, and also help to breed uncertainty inside criminal organisations, whilst maintaining the essential checks and balances to prevent potential miscarriages of justice .

Under the old rules, criminals could continue with their businesses either in prison or once they got out because their finances were not transparent. On conviction, a court can decide to place an order on a criminal. This means they are obliged to report on their financial affairs including specified documents with each report. This allows the authorities to check the criminal has no illicit sources of income. Including false or misleading information is an offence resulting in imprisonment of up to a year or a fine or both. These orders can last up to 20 years.

Under the old system, those suspected of organised crime were entitled to remain silent, making it tricky to get sufficient evidence for cases, particularly in complex cases. The prosecutor will be able to authorise police or SOCA to serve a notice on a suspect that requires them to answer questions, provide information and produce documents. If they cannot produce the documents required, they may be obliged to say where they are. If a suspect fails to comply, they can be imprisoned for up to a year or fined or both. In effect this limits the right to silence - although information obtained in this way cannot be used in evidence in a criminal prosecution against the person who gives it.

Under the old rules, operations were complex and time-consuming because the different categories of officer were needed - for example, police officers could not deport people. Once officers are trained, they will now have a full set of powers. This will allow SOCA to deploy teams that will be far more flexible, and speed up the time to deal with suspects.