The PSNI’s chief constable has welcomed the support of the National Crime Agency [NCA] which is going live within Northern Ireland today [Wednesday].
The policing agency, which has been described as the “British FBI”, was originally blocked from operating in the area by nationalist politicians, but the SDLP voted to allow them in back in February.
The National Crime Agency is committed to protecting the people of Northern Ireland against serious and organised criminals - NCA Director General, Keith Bristow
Sinn Fein however is said to be against the move.
It is understood the NCA will be subject to the same Code of Ethics as the PSNI and Justice Minister David Ford said it will have a significant impact in the fight against organised crime.
The Minister said: “From today the NCA will be able to exercise its full range of powers in Northern Ireland. As Justice Minister and as Chair of the Organised Crime Taskforce, I welcome this significant milestone. It is important of course that it has appropriate accountability within our local framework and it has that with significant roles for the Board and the Police Ombudsman.
“There is no doubt that additional pressure has been put on the PSNI because they have not been able to use the NCA’s considerable expertise. That will no longer be the case.”
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “I welcome the additional capacity and expertise which the NCA will bring to Northern Ireland to help police officers keep people safe.
“As the NCA becomes fully operational, we will be working closely with our new colleagues to ensure opportunities are maximised to tackle serious and organised crime and apprehend offenders.
“At the same time, I will ensure that the accountability arrangements being agreed with the Policing Board are factored into every aspect of operational activity to deliver both public confidence and community safety.”
NCA Director General Keith Bristow said: “We have consistently said the National Crime Agency is committed to protecting the people of Northern Ireland against serious and organised criminals as we do in the rest of the UK. Now with the legislative process complete in Northern Ireland we will work with our PSNI and law enforcement colleagues and get on with doing our duty.”