Home Affairs Committee Press Notice

HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CALLS FOR GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SERIOUS AND ORGANISED CRIME AGENCY

In a short report released today, Wednesday 18 November 2009, the Home Affairs Select Committee says the public expect SOCA, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, to be able to quantify its results and justify its budget, and also suggest that it may be time to create a body similar to a police authority to give the kind of day-to-day accountability for SOCA that local police forces have to their police authorities.

The Committee's evidence sessions on the work of SOCA are a small part of its scrutiny of the work of the Agency - the Committee has examined SOCA's role more widely in its inquires into human trafficking and the cocaine trade, and met SOCA officers based in Europol and embedded with police forces in other countries in the course of a number of other inquiries. The Committee is impressed by SOCA's officers and the work they do but is concerned that due to its intelligence-gathering role, the level of threat posed by the criminals it pursues and the fact that it falls outside the structure of accountability for local police forces, SOCA is less transparent than other police services.

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee said: " The Committee interacts with SOCA and its officers frequently in the course of our inquiries and we have been impressed by their work. We understand that they are, by definition, working on complicated, sensitive cases that take time to resolve. However, the fact is that the public expect evidence of results, and the recovery of criminal assets is an easy way to measure results and justify the Agency's significant budget. It may be time for SOCA to have some measurable targets. We also need some mechanism for day-to-day accountability for SOCA, which for obvious, operational reasons is less transparent than other police services - it may be time to create a police authority specifically to oversee its work. We will certainly continue to keep a watching brief on the Agency."