Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by The Northern Ireland Office

INTRODUCTION

  1.  On 24 September, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) submitted to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee a memorandum on "its work investigating the financing of terrorism and its actions to seek to counteract this". This supplementary memorandum is in response to a request by the Committee, of 7 January, for additional information.

  2.  Answers to the specific questions raised are set out below. However, before turning to these, the NIO would like to clarify two issues further.

THE ROLE OF THE ORGANISED CRIME TASK FORCE (OCTF)

  3.  The OCTF does not have operational responsibilities. It brings together the operational agencies in Northern Ireland and senior NIO officials under the chairmanship of Jane Kennedy, Security Minister. The OCTF enables the agencies to discuss and agree areas for priority action through a concerted multi-agency approach. The Task Force is therefore strategic in nature. While it receives an update on operational activity at each of its meetings, it does not direct it: that remains the preserve of the individual agencies represented on the OCTF.

  4.  For this, its first year, the OCTF agreed a set of strategic priorities, concentrating on the commodities and types of criminal enterprise which are having the most adverse impact on Northern Ireland society. The activity report to each Task Force meeting is designed to enable the members to assess in-year progress against those targets. It also enables the Task Force to monitor any new or emerging organised crime trends which require a strategic response.

  5.  The Task Force was established to tackle organised crime across the board. Not all aspects of organised crime in Northern Ireland are linked to the paramilitary organisations, although some clearly is. The principle behind the OCTF is to attack the criminal element of organised crime, whatever its source. Through this route, both the classic organised crime organisations and those linked with paramilitary groups will be affected by good operational success.

  6.  For this reason a direct comparison with the resources dedicated to the Terrorist Finance Unit could be misleading. First, the OCTF is strategic, while the TFU was operational in nature. Second, the OCTF approach of tackling criminality across the board is markedly different from that adopted by the TFU. The Government believes that the best way of judging the new approach is by the results it achieves, rather than by the resources directly dedicated to the Task Force.

  7.  Significant operational successes have indeed been achieved. This reflects not only on the individual agencies concerned, but also on the multi-agency approach the Task Force is fostering. It reflects also on the new structural changes put in place, notably by the PSNI and Customs, which facilitate the provision of mutual support.

  8.  The Government is tackling the problem of terrorist funding in other ways too. Specific legislation, contained in the Terrorism Act 2000 and strengthened by the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, existing confiscation legislation and the new Proceeds of Crime Bill all play a significant role in the Government's strategy.

  9.  The remainder of this memorandum sets out answers to the questions raised in the Committee's letter of 7 January which fall within NIO's responsibility.

What human resources (measured in terms of full-time personnel) and financial resources are available to the Organised Crime Task Force, in the Northern Ireland Office?

  The Organised Crime Task Force is chaired by the Security Minister, Jane Kennedy. The Task Force meets approximately every other month. Between meetings, Ms Kennedy makes a series of visits and regularly undertakes media work on the role of the OCTF. For example, in December, Ms Kennedy undertook a walk-about in Belfast City Centre with Sir Reg Empey to promote jointly the message that consumers should not purchase counterfeit goods.

  Senior officials from the Policing and Security Directorate, Criminal Justice Directorate and Information Services sit on the Task Force (Director Policing and Security, Associate Director Policing and Security, and Head of Security Policy and Operations Division; Director Criminal Justice Directorate and Head of Criminal Justice Policy Directorate; and Acting Deputy Director of Communications). The Task Force is serviced by a small secretariat from the Security Policy and Operations Division.

  In addition to attendance at Task Force meetings, the Director Policing and Security chairs the Task Force's public sector sub group. This meets between each Task Force meeting to liaise with the devolved administration. The Director also chairs the strategy sub group which among other things drafts for the Task Force's approval the annual strategy to counter the threat to Northern Ireland society from organised crime. The Associate Director chairs the Task Force's co-ordination sub group which also meets between each Task Force meeting. This sub group works with the agencies to strengthen further the agencies' co-operation and co-ordination arrangements, and to develop performance measures. The Head of the Security Policy and Operations Division chairs the legal sub group which meets regularly. This group keeps the agencies up to date on legislative developments and considers legislative issues arising from the work of the agencies. The Acting Deputy Director of Communications chairs a publicity sub group which promotes the Task Force's key message that everyone has a role to play in tackling organised crime, and it works with the agencies to help promote operational success. Other members of the Department attend in support of these sub group meetings. The Department also attends the analysis and assessment sub group chaired by the PSNI, which concentrates on further improvements to the flow of intelligence between the agencies.

  Although precise time inputs are not available, all this represents a significant commitment by the Security Minister and senior officials.

  On the Secretariat side, one Grade A (Grade 7 equivalent) and one BI (SEO equivalent) are heavily engaged on a daily basis on Task Force activity, which accounts for the bulk of their work (the remainder of the work of these posts covers linked issues, such as counter terrorism law). Other resources are available within the Division as needed. Within the Communications Directorate, one Information Officer is dedicated to Task Force issues, reactive and proactive.

  Policy input into the Proceeds of Crime Bill is relevant to the Task Force's remit but is taken forward outside it.

How many OCTF staff are wholly or mainly engaged in work against terrorist organised crime, and how does this compare to human resources allocated to tackling ordinary organised crime in Northern Ireland?

  As noted above, the Task Force approach does not distinguish between ordinary and terrorist organised crime. The principle is to foster a multi-agency approach to tackling all types of organised crime and the Task Force has concentrated this year on the commodity areas which have the most adverse impact on Northern Ireland society.

  The Task Force resources are, for the main part, staff costs. The costs of publicising the threat assessment and strategy for year 1 were met within NIO resources.

How does the answer to (the above) compare to the allocation to the anti-racketeering response when the NIO Terrorist Finance Unit (and the RUC C1/3 squad) were in existence in 1996?

  As explained above, a direct comparison between the OCTF and TFU would not take account of their very different functions. For information, the TFU had 25 staff in 1996.

How many personnel have been provisionally allocated to work in the Northern Ireland division of the Assets Recovery Agency?

  In accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Bill the Home Office is the responsible department for the resourcing and funding of ARA including its physical presence in Northern Ireland. The Bill requires the appointment of a senior officer of the agency (possibly to be known as an assistant director) to be responsible for its functions in Northern Ireland, and the Government has made clear that the agency will have a branch here. Details of the staff to be located in Northern Ireland and associated logistical and resource issues are still being considered.

  How many staff of the staff will be employed as:

    investigators;

    (ii)  analysts;

    (iii)  accountants;

    (iv)  lawyers; and

    (v)  support staff.

  Details of the staff to be located in Northern Ireland are still being considered.

15 January 2002


 
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