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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 15:31 GMT
'British FBI' to have new powers
Lord Goldsmith
Lord Goldsmith wants to put organised crime 'out of circulation'
Britain's new FBI-style agency should turn the UK into "one of the least attractive places in the world" for crime, the attorney general has said.

The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) will have statutory powers to bring previously untouchable "Mr Big" characters to justice.

A dedicated group of criminal prosecutors will work "shoulder to shoulder" with agency staff.

They will help put gangsters "out of circulation", Lord Goldsmith said.

The specialist lawyers are a "vital part" of the government's new strategy to fight organised crime, which costs the UK 20bn a year, he added.

"We want to make the UK one of the least attractive locations in the world for organised crime to operate," Lord Goldsmith said.

"Prosecution is a vital part of our strategy. It is the way to put criminals out of circulation for a long time and confiscate their assets."

'Creative' response

The new prosecutors will be able to offer criminals immunity from prosecution or a reduced sentence in return for testifying against fellow suspects and co-operating with the investigation.

They will also be able to compel witnesses to answer questions and produce documents of "substantial value" to an investigation.

Failing to comply with a disclosure notice will be an offence.

"Prosecution is the way to increase the personal risk for criminals, especially the criminal kingpins
Lord Goldsmith
Speaking at a conference to discuss the fight against organised crime, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC, welcomed the new powers under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill.

He said prosecutors should abandon "timidity" and "wield any new weapon" available.

"Organised criminals are resourceful, well-financed and innovative in their exploitation of new opportunities, new criminal markets and new technologies," he said.

"We must be creative in developing robust prosecution structures to respond powerfully to the new challenges."

The new specialist prosecutors will be based within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Customs Prosecution Office (RCPO), which will be set up later this year.

They will assist Soca in areas such as extradition, obtaining evidence from abroad, recovering criminals' assets and witness protection.

Soca's primary targets will be drug and people trafficking gangs, major fraudsters and internet paedophile rings.

It will be chaired by Stephen Lander, the former head of MI5, and will replace the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and Customs and Immigration Service teams.


SEE ALSO:
New powers to tackle crime gangs
24 Nov 04 |  Politics
Blunkett unveils FBI-style police
29 Mar 04 |  Politics
Organised crime bill at-a-glance
24 Nov 04 |  Politics


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