Organisations like the NCA are crucial in civilised societies

Morning View
Morning View

It is encouraging to learn that the National Crime Agency (NCA) recorded 44 “disruptions” of organised crime in Northern Ireland last year.

This crucial organisation is now operating in the Province, albeit not on entirely the same terms on which the NCA operates in Great Britain, after the SDLP insisted on increased oversight measures of it.

However, the position could be much worse – if Sinn Fein had had its way, the NCA would not be operating here at all.

The absence of the NCA would of course have been welcome to wealthy republican fuel smugglers and tax cheats on the border or gangsters in loyalist estates.

They cannot rest so easily now.

Last year the NCA tackled child sexual exploitation, drugs and money laundering gangs among other operations in NI.

It helped the PSNI to trace missing people and to combat the growing threat of cyber criminality.

It is investigating the sale of Nama assets in Northern Ireland.

The organisation’s crime operations support teams have assisted police investigations into murders, among other grave crimes.

The NCA was launched in 2013 but not introduced in Northern Ireland until almost two years later.

It is welcome that the SDLP (ultimately and belatedly) did the right thing, and ceased to give political cover for an ideological hardcore who opposed the NCA under the language of human rights (which in effect meant human rights for serious offenders).

It is essential that Stormont closely monitors the so-called increased scrutiny and oversight arrangements of the NCA to ensure that this does not in any significant way restrict its powers and effectiveness.

The worst criminals – be they terrorists, hardcore sex offenders, drug lords, or expert fraudsters – are dangerous people who spread misery. All civilised societies need skilled and powerful agencies to monitor and stop them.