Advising the Serious Organised Crime Agency: the role of the specialist prosecutors

AuthorDavid Fitzpatrick
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/EUM0000000007303
Pages251-263
Publication Date01 Jul 2005
Advising the Serious Organised Crime Agency:
The Role of the Specialist Prosecutors
David Fitzpatrick
SOCA, ONE STEP AHEAD OF
ORGANISED CRIME
On 9th February, 2004 the Home Secretary announced
the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime
Agency (SOCA or `the Agency').
1
With the aim of
defeating crime in England and Wales, Her Majesty's
government (HMG) sees the need for success on three
main fronts: reducing the pro®t incentive of organised
crime, disrupting criminal enterprises and increasing
the risks to criminals, in particular the `king pins' of
organised crime, by more successful and targeted pro-
secutions of the major players. Central to HMG's strat-
egy is SOCA, which will bring together the National
Crime Squad (NCS), the National Criminal Intelli-
gence Service (NCIS), the investigative and intelli-
gence personnel of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise
(HMCE) on serious drug tracking and the Home
Oce's policy team. SOCA will be led by a high-
pro®le Director General and be accountable to the
Home Secretary. Specialist prosecutors, answerable
to the Attorney General, will advise the Agency: the
prosecutors will be independent of the Agency, but
will work closely with its ocers, staying with each
case from the outset of investigation right through to
the point of sentence. This paper explores the probable
role of the specialist prosecutors, the diculties they
face and comments upon the change of mindset that
will be necessary for what promises to be an elite orga-
nisation advised by elite lawyers.
The establishment of SOCA
It is HMG's intention to introduce legislation to estab-
lish SOCA as soon as parliamentary time allows,
though in the meantime the existing agencies will
work more closely and develop their capabilities. By
setting clear strategic priorities it is hoped that
SOCA will deliver `a step change in performance'.
The keys to such success are perceived as:
(i) a clarity of approach, with enhanced capabilities
and skill;
(ii) a radical improvement in the use of intelligence
throughout the system;
(iii) strong partnerships with individual police forces
and other law enforcement bodies, domestically
and internationally, ensuring that best practice is
identi®ed and adopted;
(iv) more concerted use of existing powers and eec-
tive relations between investigators and prosecu-
tors; and
(v) new powers to defeat the most serious criminals
and criminal enterprises.
One Step Ahead
In `One Step Ahead' (subtitled `A 21st Century Strat-
egy to Defeat Organised Crime'), a consultation paper
(`the Paper') published in March 2004, the Home
Oce describes the problems facing the UK and sug-
gests the way forward.
2
The reasoning behind the
creation of SOCA and how it is anticipated it will
function are explained. Consultation was sought
(inter alia) upon a number of major proposals made
in the Paper:
(i) extension of Serious Fraud Oce (SFO) powers
to compel witnesses to produce documents and
answer questions;
(ii) a review of the laws of conspiracy;
(iii) putting Queen's evidence (currently an exercise
of the royal prerogative) on a statutory footing,
to encourage turncoat testimony;
(iv) a national witness protection programme;
(v) a review of the existing sentencing regime, in par-
ticular, to demonstrate the extent it does not
match the seriousness of underlying oences;
(vi) the creation of new licence conditions to keep
professional criminals under much closer scrutiny
after their release.
Specialist prosecutors, new skills, new
roles, new dangers
It is apparent from `One Step Ahead' that much more
is expected of the specialist prosecutors than the service
that is presently provided by the Crown Prosecution
Service (CPS):
Page 251
Journal of Financial Crime Ð Vol. 12 No. 3
Journalof FinancialCrime
Vol.12,No. 3,2005,pp.251 ±263
#HenryStewart Publications
ISSN1359-0790

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