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National Crime Agency involved in 42 'disruptions' of crime gangs in first year, but just two convictions to date

National Crime Agency officers have helped "disrupt" 42 criminal gangs in their first year in Northern Ireland. Picture by Jonathan Brady
John Monaghan

THE National Crime Agency (NCA) has assisted in operations leading to "at least 42 disruptions" against organised crime gangs in its first year in operation in Northern Ireland, the Justice minister has revealed.

Claire Sugden released the figures in response to an Assembly question by Ulster Unionist East Belfast MLA Andy Allen, saying that the agency had helped to tackle drug crime and child sexual exploitation.

The NCA, which came into effect in Britain in 2013, became operational in the north almost exactly one year ago.

Although both the SDLP and Sinn Féin initially opposed the move, citing concerns over the agency's accountability, the SDLP changed its position in an Assembly vote last year, paving the way for the agency to operate in the north.

At the time of last year's Assembly vote, many unionists said the NCA was badly needed to support a strained police force, although Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly accused the SDLP of undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

Miss Sugden said the arrival of the NCA "has led to at least 42 disruptions against organised crime groups operating in Northern Ireland."

The Justice Minister added: "As a result of joint NCA/PSNI operations there have been more than 40 arrests with 11 individuals charged for various offences. Prosecution action is ongoing and there have been two convictions to date for offences relating to child sexual exploitation."

UUP MLA Andy Allen said the statistics showed that the NCA "has been extremely effective".

He added: "The same statistics are also further proof as to how wrong Sinn Féin were in their stubborn opposition to the NCA being given the powers to operate in Northern Ireland to the same extent as in the rest of the United Kingdom."

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