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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Britain studies US crime fighting
Tony Blair
Tony Blair said more could be done to fight organised crime
The UK could copy the American method of crime fighting, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

A national agency modelled on the FBI was being considered, he told an international conference on criminal justice in London.

Mr Blair said it could see some or all of the national law enforcement agencies which currently investigate serious organised crime brought together.

The aim would be a "new dedicated national agency which could share intelligence, expertise and investigative talents", he said.

Mr Blair did not reveal which agencies could be merged to form the new service, but it could include the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad.

Mixed response

The review has been welcomed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which is already involved in discussions about a possible new national agency.

Change for the sake of change doesn't do anybody any favours
Jan Berry - Police Federation

The association's president, Chris Fox, said any such body must not be allowed to lose contact with local communities.

"I think what we're doing at the moment isn't working very well," he said.

"The different agencies have different responsibilities and different lines of accountability."

Any national agency should ensure it did not gain the FBI's reputation for aloofness and over-riding local law enforcers, he added.

"We need to make sure that we have an integrated operation which has got to link in with the grass roots," he said.

Investigative powers

Jan Berry of the Police Federation, which represents 130,000 front line officers, was more cautious.

"We would want to see what the plans are for integrating all the different bodies with investigative powers and intelligence responsibilities.

"Change for the sake of change doesn't do anybody any favours."

The Police Superintendents' Association also had concerns about a national agency, saying middle-ranking criminals could be forgotten.

Its president, Kevin Morris, said: "A large organisation with the skills and resources to tackle major league national and international crime gangs could leave local forces lacking the skills and experience to deal with the criminals considered too small to be targeted by the national agency but who still commit considerable harm to local communities."

The government would publish its conclusions on the idea in the autumn, Mr Blair said.

'Balanced' package

The prime minister also defended Home Secretary David Blunkett's controversial Criminal Justice Bill.

It included plans for the creation of a supreme court to replace the law lords and the abolition of the most historic post in government, that of lord chancellor.

I want to ensure that we identify every addict, track them into treatment and manage their case through the whole criminal justice system
Tony Blair

Mr Blair said the changes it proposed were "badly needed", but that it could face a rough ride in the House of Lords.

He also used the opportunity to highlight Labour's achievements in dealing with drugs.

"We've already introduced drug testing and treatment orders and are funding arrest referral workers in every police station," Mr Blair said.

"Now we are broadening and deepening that approach."

By September, in England's 30 highest crime areas, local police will be drug testing every property offender, he said.

"I want to ensure that we identify every addict, track them into treatment and manage their case through the whole criminal justice system, including aftercare for those leaving prison."

Community court

The conference also heard about another American crime plan - the community court - which could also be introduced here.

Red Hook Community Court judge Alex Calabrese introduced the idea of monthly meetings with community leaders who identify where the problems are.

The judge can impose sentences the community suggests, including compulsory drug treatment, street cleaning or jail.

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11 Jun 03  |  Politics
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12 Jun 03  |  Politics

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