Case Studies

Audit of organised crime

by Mark Rowe

Serious and organised crime (SOC) is growing; in scale and complexity; whether cyber-crime from Ukraine, Russia and Nigeria, or illicit drugs coming into the UK from transport hubs on the Continent and Channel and North Sea ports. International links of such crime are known; most cocaine that enters the UK is produced from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, while the Mediterranean remains a major transit route for organised immigration crime to the UK.

The government is responding, yet some significant and avoidable shortcomings may prevent government and its partners from meeting its aim, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

UK government does not yet have the data that it needs to respond effectively. In 2018, it found that it had a weak understanding of the scale of four out of nine types of serious and organised crime. Its insufficient knowledge of international illegal markets has made even it harder for the government to know how best to respond, says the NAO. In September 2018, there were 37 groups involved in the governance of tackling serious and organised crime, and another 59 groups that discussed related topics. Despite some progress in merging and simplifying these groups, governance arrangements are still cluttered. The Home Office and the National Crime Agency (NCA) do not know whether their efforts are working and are not yet able to target resources against the highest-priority threats, the 57-page report concludes.

Gareth Davies, the new head of the NAO, said: “The government faces an immense challenge in fighting this complex, evolving threat. While it has made efforts to step up its response, there is more the government could do to make its aspirations a reality. To deliver its new strategy, the government needs to better match resources to its priorities, improve its understanding of these crimes and ensure governance and funding fit with its ambitious plans.”

For the full report visit

The NAO describes tackling serious and organised crime as a significant and complex challenge. More than 4,500 organised crime groups operate in the UK in changing and unpredictable ways, often using violence and intimidation. These crimes also know no borders and many groups work in large networks spanning countries. The nine types of serious and organised crime assessed in 2018 were modern slavery and human trafficking; organised immigration crime; child sexual exploitation and abuse; money laundering; fraud and other economic crime; international bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion; cyber crime; illegal firearms; and illegal drugs. In 2019, the government identified ten types of serious and organised crime, adding organised acquisitive crime.


For the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) Serious Organised Crime Leads Marc Jones PCC and Manchester Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes said the report shines a light on many of the key challenges law enforcement face in tackling the increasing threat, while providing some useful recommendations. “Police and Crime Commissioners have prioritised funding to a collaborative regional response investing £123 million in our Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) with a further estimated £1.8 billion nationally on our local force response. While supporting the role of the National Crime Agency, there is an urgent requirement for a joined up whole system response, recognising our local commitments, and this must be factored into the forthcoming spending review.

“SOC is a blight on all our communities, whether it be the direct impact felt by the disturbing increase of serious violence in our inner-city estates, or the hidden impact of the significant cost to our national economy. PCCs support a robust law enforcement approach to criminals making financial gain at the misery of others, however we have long advocated, as with serious violence, that prevention is at the heart of long-term solutions. To this end we want to see support for this approach across Government and adequate funding to tackle serious and organised crime.”

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