Justice Minister praises Organised Crime Task Force successes

25 June 2015

That was the message from Justice Minister, David Ford as he launched the Organised Crime Task Force’s (OCTF) Annual Report and Threat Assessment. Speaking at the event in Parliament Buildings the Minister thanked OCTF partners for their dedication to tackling threats from cyber crime; preventing illegal working and immigration crime; dismantling illegal fuel plants; dealing with waste crime; prosecuting criminals and removing their assets; and for raising awareness.

David Ford said: “Organised crime is a multi-million pound generating industry that is becoming increasingly complex and global in its nature. More significantly, it brings misery and despair to victims. Confronting organised crime remains a high priority for me and others across government and law enforcement. The Organised Crime Task Force brings together a wide range of people who work together to fight these crime groups. Much has been achieved during the period and I congratulate the Taskforce on a successful year.

“One of the key successes this year was securing the necessary framework and political agreement for the full roll out of the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland. The additional capacity and expertise will assist the PSNI in bringing criminals to justice. Another important development was the introduction of a new fuel marker to help in the fight against fuel launderers. Its effect is being monitored but we are optimistic about the impact it will have – north and south.

“Notwithstanding the great results, we all recognise that there is still more to do. We need to continue our work and get the message across about the dangers of organised crime. We need to change the mindset to make the public aware that organised crime is not something that happens to other people or in other communities. It is happening now, in our communities and we need everyone’s vigilance to help to tackle it. We will also need to work even smarter, especially with the pressures on resources. However, I am confident we can rise to the challenge and continue to put organised crime groups out of business.”

The Minister was joined at the launch by George Hamilton, Chief Constable of the PSNI and Kevin Hyland, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Chief Constable outlined a number of successes over the 2014/2015 financial year including:

* 14 organised crime groups dismantled.

* 80 organised crime groups frustrated or disrupted.

* More than 5,000 drug seizures, an increase of 5.8% on the previous year.

* More than 2,800 drug arrests.

* 45 potential victims of human trafficking recovered in Northern Ireland.

Addressing the OCTF partners George Hamilton said: “I cannot put a figure on the number of lives you have saved or the amount of harm you have prevented but I know that Northern Ireland is a safer place as a result of all of your efforts”.

The Chief Constable also highlighted the challenges posed by cyber crime and how the PSNI was responding. He noted that there were 826 reported cyber crimes in 2014/2015 including attacks on local businesses. In response, the PSNI has established a new Cyber Crime Centre to deal with the growing demand for cyber investigations as well as a Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership, a collaborative initiative between industry, Government and law enforcement to share cyber threat and vulnerability information.

The National Crime Agency, which became fully operational in Northern Ireland on 20 May, also gives significant assistance. It houses the National Cyber Crime Unit and is resourced to respond to rapidly changing threats and works in partnership with the PSNI and other OCTF bodies.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner addressed the event on his third visit to Northern Ireland since his appointment in November 2014. He highlighted the importance of engagement with law enforcement and non-governmental organisations in Northern Ireland and his role in promoting good practice in tackling slavery and human trafficking.

Kevin Hyland said: “Modern slavery is often organised crime, especially when it crosses national borders. The criminals behind this illicit trade in human life utilise their networks to maximise profit. If law enforcement is to curb their illicit business it must also utilise networks and continue to build pro-active partnerships that transcend borders and sectors in the type of multi-agency approach that OCTF practises."

The OCTF Annual Report and Threat Assessment records enforcement activity taken by OCTF partners against organised crime groups at all levels over the 2014/2015 financial year. It also sets out the main threats from organised in Northern Ireland.

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