NI: NI justice minister hails organised crime task force report

David Ford MLA
David Ford MLA

Northern Ireland’s justice minister David Ford has hailed new figures showing “great results” from the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF).

The team dismantled fourteen organised crime groups and frustrated or disrupted another 80 organised crime groups over the course of the 2014/15 financial year.

The OCTF also recorded a 5.8 per cent increase in drug seizures to over 5,000, as well as more than 2,800 drug arrests.

Speaking at the launch of the OCTF’s Annual Report and Threat Assessment in Stormont, Mr Ford said: “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.”

The Minister was joined at the launch by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton and independent anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland.

Mr Hamilton said Northern Ireland “is a safer place” as a result of OCTF work and highlighted the challenges posed by cyber crime.

There were 826 reported cyber crimes in 2014/15, leading the PSNI to set up a new Cyber Crime Centre as well as a Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership involving the government, industry and law enforcement.

The National Crime Agency, which became fully operational in Northern Ireland on 20 May, houses the National Cyber Crime Unit and works in partnership with the PSNI and other OCTF bodies.

The OCTF report also states that 45 “potential victims” of human trafficking were recovered in Northern Ireland.

Mr 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.”

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