COMMONS

Committee launches inquiry into organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland

18 July 2019

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee launches an inquiry into organised crime gangs operating in Northern Ireland with a focus on cross-border criminality and international networks.

The Committee will be investigating the increasing number of Organised Crime Gangs (OCGs) operating in Northern Ireland.  In 2018, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda published a joint report on cross border organised crime which detailed the illegal activities of OGCs including smuggling of illegal goods, human trafficking and data crime. In the last year Northern Ireland has seen a spate of suspected gang related crimes including eight thefts of cash machines

Due to Northern Ireland’s unique geographical position as the only UK country to share a land border with a non-UK country, OCGs in Northern Ireland operate across the border with networks in the Republic of Ireland. The UK’s departure from the European Union may also have an impact on existing cross-border police cooperation. OCGs often also have international connections which facilitate serious crimes such as sex trafficking and money laundering. The inquiry will look at the role of technology and the ‘dark web’ for aiding OCGs’ cross border and international activities.

In this inquiry, the Committee will examine the drivers behind organised gang crime in Northern Ireland and the impact their illegal pursuits are having on many communities. The inquiry begins with a call for evidence from any individual or organisation who wants to tell the Committee more about OCGs in Northern Ireland. The Committee is investigating three main areas:

  • The drivers and operation of OCGs in Northern Ireland
  • Cross-border criminality related to OCGs in Northern Ireland; and
  • Combating the operations of OCGs both in Northern Ireland and internationally.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Committee Simon Hoare MP commented:

"Organised crime gangs present a significant and growing threat to Northern Ireland. This year’s disturbing spate of ATM thefts in Northern Ireland indicates how these gangs are adopting extreme new techniques to maximise financial gains and evade capture by law enforcement.

It is essential that we understand why OCGs are increasing in number, who is joining them and how organised crime gangs use international networks to facilitate their criminal activities. The Committee’s inquiry will examine how organised crime gangs currently operate within Northern Ireland and across the border and how leaving the EU might impact gang crime and policing."

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written evidence on the following questions:

Drivers and operation of OCGs in Northern Ireland

  • What motivates the formation of OCGs in Northern Ireland?
  • Who joins OCGs and why?
  • What are the main types of criminal activities which they are involved in? And where do the proceeds go?
  • How are OCGs using technology and the ‘dark net’ to assist and adapt their current activities?
  • What is the level of co-operation between difference OCGs within Northern Ireland?

Cross-border and international criminality

  • In what ways do OCGs use a) the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and b) the Common Travel Area (CTA) to facilitate and enable crime?
  • How does the CTA influence cross-border crime between Northern Ireland and i) the Republic of Ireland and ii) Great Britain?
  • What linkages exist between OCGs in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? How well developed are such collaborations?
  • What known links exist between OCGs operating across the island of Ireland and OCGs in i) Great Britain ii) the rest of Europe and iii) the rest of the world?
  • What affect could Brexit have in shifting the nature of cross-border criminality?

Combatting the operations of OCGs both in Northern Ireland and internationally

  • How do the PSNI and Garda co-operate to combat OCGs?
  • How is tackling of OCGs in Northern Ireland funded? Are the efforts of different agencies sufficiently co-ordinated?
  • How is data shared between authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and used to identify the illicit activities of OCGs? What barriers exist to sharing data across these jurisdictions in the detection and prosecution of criminals?
  • How may Brexit affect the co-operation of the PSNI and Garda in disrupting the activities of OCGs? How can the UK prepare for this in the context of the different scenarios which might occur?

Submit written evidence:

Contribute views and ideas to the inquiry by submitting written evidence here by Tuesday 27 August 2019.

Anyone can submit written evidence as long as the submission is clear, concise, addresses the terms of reference and is not already published elsewhere. You can respond as an individual, a group or an organisation. You don’t need to answer all of the questions. You can read more about how to submit written evidence here.

Further information

Image: PSNI

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