Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
460. "Given the resources"! I do not
think that is in your script, is it?
(Jane Kennedy) The Task Force is keen to learn from
international experience in tackling organised crime. You will
know that Professor Ronald Goldstock, the ex-Director of the New
York State Organised Crime Task Force, has been appointed by John
Reid, the Secretary of State, to act as his independent expert
in this area. In particular, he has been asked to formulate proposals
for securing cross-community support for action drawing on international
experience. I should point out that Professor Goldstock will have
an advisory, non-operational role. He will not be joining the
Task Force. However, he will obviously come into close contact
with the organisations represented on the Task Force and we look
forward to lending him our full support. I just want to say thank
you for that opportunity, having thought about how I would set
461. My apologies for not giving you the opportunity
before. It was very helpful indeed. All I can say is it totally
reinforces the questions I was putting to you before and we will
make sure that you get to see the transcript of evidence that
the Home Office gave so that you can make your representations
accordingly. What discussions have you had on other issues relating
to the agency, particularly in relation to the protection of staff?
You will undoubtedly know that Adrian Bailey spoke in the House
on all our behalf because we were on our way back from a very
successful visit and Bob Ainsworth made clear that he was looking
at this anonymity question. Of course, in Northern Ireland you
have much more experience of the problems of intimidation of staff
than they have on the mainland. Have you had discussions about
that and are you satisfied that they will now move on the anonymity
issue following the Irish example so that certainly so far as
Northern Ireland is concerned people who are doing this sometimes
dangerous and difficult job will be protected?
(Jane Kennedy) Yes, discussions have largely been
going on at an official level until very recently. We will now
take those discussions forward at ministerial level. Yes, we have
heard the concerns of the Committee and listened to the representations
that you have made and we have looked at the situation in the
Criminal Assets Bureau as well.
The Reverend Martin Smyth
462. On the question of the links between the
Assets Recovery Agency, what would your plans be to have other
agencies joining the Organised Crime Task Force, bearing in mind
that David Veness of the Metropolitan Police in evidence before
us actually noted the spread of paramilitary-associated activity
to the mainland and he expressed support for the OCTF.
(Jane Kennedy) I am grateful that he has expressed
his support. We already have as full members of the Task Force
representatives of the Home Office, Customs & Excise (which
is of course a UK-wide agency) the National Criminal Intelligence
Service and other UK-wide bodies. Recently the Task Force had
a detailed presentation by the National Crime Squad on methods
that they are developing to deal with organised crime by looking
at the whole activities of an individual and they made that presentation
to the Task Force. We have also involved the Public Sector Sub-Group
of the Task Force which links directly with the devolved Executive
Assembly and the Executive. I think we already have exactly those
agencies involved. I know that will continue. In fact, just yesterday
I visited the Forensic Science Agency in Northern Ireland because
they were wanting to show me the work they are doing in profiling
certain drugs. They had been working on profiling ecstasy and
they wanted to show me that within the context of the Organised
Crime Task Force. In the course of that visit we talked about
their involvement in one of the expert groups of the Task Force
and I am hopeful that they will come to join us at some point
in the future.
463. Has there been consideration given to a
role for the Benefits Agency, bearing in mind that this was one
of the strong points within the Assets of Crime Task Force in
(Jane Kennedy) I am aware also that the Executive
have established their Fraud Working Group as well involving the
Social Security Department within Northern Ireland. There is already
good co-operation with DARD and the SSA in Northern Ireland and
we have, as I have said, the Public Sector Group.
464. When you say "good" co-operation,
how far is one going? One of the things I have discovered as a
member is that when we give information about giro drops little
is done about it. When we raise some of the issues it is obviously
passed from one to the other and nothing happens. When we say
good co-operation, how is that co-operation manifesting itself?
(Jane Kennedy) The involvement of the Social Security
Department in Northern Ireland would be at a strategic level.
It would obviously be of concern if their effectiveness as fraud
investigators was not being followed through. That would be a
matter for that department to tackle within the devolved administration.
I would be hopeful that as they engage with the Task Force that
we can assist them and they will learn the benefits by getting
involved with the Task Force, as the other public agencies have,
of sharing information and sharing officers so they co-operate
together in operations that might be targeted at organised groups
involved in social security fraud. It is my intention to invite
the Assistant Director of the Assets Recovery Agency to join the
Organised Crime Task Force once he or she is appointed.
465. I wanted to ask a few things about the
Organised Crime Task Force as well. In a number of our meetings
in Northern Ireland we have heard quite a lot of favourable comments
about it. I think you dealt with some of the things in your opening
statement in terms of saying that we will see this when the report
is published. I would like to ask three very specific things.
The first thing is will the report actually show the Task Force's
performance against its targets? Will that be reported specifically?
(Jane Kennedy) Yes. One of the first sessions that
I had in the briefings I had with officials was about the role
of the Security Minister and as I came to understand the role
of Chair of the Task Force I was impressed by the work that had
already been started in developing the measurements that we will
be using to measure the progress and work of the Task Force, because
they are very challenging. It is a nervous Minister that sets
challenging targets, but I am confident that they are challenging
and that they will give us a real measure of the success of the
Task Force. We have previously measured the trends and sought
to identify the groups and set priorities. When you see the measurements
that we will be publishing shortly I hope that you will find that
they are significant and challenging targets. We will be publishing
those, as I say, on 16 May. I think you have already had the impact
indicators sent to you. I hope that has been the case and so you
will be aware of some of those targets. If you were to say what
impact has there been so far, you need to look at the successes
that the organisations have been having over the last year to
18 months and the increasing impact of the organisations working
together. There always was good co-operation between Customs and
the Police but the fact that Customs has increased the number
of people that they have working in Northern Ireland and the fact
that the agencies are now working together in a strategic and
co-ordinated way is beginning to have a major impact and I am
466. I have no reason to doubt that. As I say,
we are regularly told about the successes but that is why I was
wondering will it be possible to look at specific targets and
check the performance? What would you do if you found yourself
in the unfortunate position where the performance falls short
of the targets because the constituent agencies claim that they
are constrained or limited by their other work or resources? What
are your plans to tackle that?
(Jane Kennedy) That has not so far proved a problem.
Quite clearly it would not be something you would wait until the
end of year report to tackle. We meet regularly as a Task Force.
The co-operation now is such that where those problems become
apparent we would not wait and sit around while they developed
and interfered with the work of the Task Force. We would take
those head-on when we encountered them. I will give you this as
an example. There has been a shortage of detectives within the
Police Service, that is pretty well-known. We have been aware
of that but the Police Service to their great credit have not
allowed it to interfere with the effectiveness of their work in
this particular role. I think they deserve great credit for that.
467. Is there anything other than the comments
you have already made in your general statement that you can tell
us about the Task Force's strategy for the coming 12 months or
is that something we should wait for in the report on the 16th?
(Jane Kennedy) The future work of the Task Force is
going to be at various levels. We have already begun to tackle
some of the issues. If I use as an example the work I have been
doing with Sir Reg Empey, who is the Minister for the Department
of Enterprise, Trade and Investment responsible for trade and
business in Northern Ireland. He and I began before Christmas
to try and implant in the public consciousness the need to resist
counterfeit goods and so on. Reg and I got involved in something
which my officials dubbed "Jane and Reg go shopping"
but in actual fact was a very effective way of bringing the public's
attention to the dangers of counterfeit goods. Not only are they
substandard and a waste of money but they can be dangerous as
well. We got involved with trading standards and others in a promotional
project which did extremely well in terms of attracting attention
and publicising the work of the Task Force. Following on from
that, thinking in terms of what we would be developing in the
coming year, we had a dinner with business leaders in which we
talked to them specifically about extortion. Using his role Reg
was able to bring with him the business leaders from around Northern
Ireland although they did not share our views about extortion
and they did not believe that the problem was as bad as the Police
Service in Northern Ireland believed it was. That was a valuable
exchange because using Reg's good offices we were able to say
in order to be sure that we are working to the best level of information
that we have, how can we engage with the business community to
get them to tell us what the problems are about extortion. We
knew that the problem was worse than demonstrated by the number
of prosecutions and the number of charges brought, but we needed
them to say to us what the scale of the problem was. The big companies
will not necessarily declare in their accounts when they have
paid £100,000 to a protection racket, so we are taking forward
as a result of that work a project by which the police will work
with the different business organisations through Reg Empey's
offices and they will come forward with surveys that they will
undertake between those organisations. We believe that the individual
businesses will be more open to a consultation that is conducted
by their own trade organisation than they would perhaps to a police
surveyat least that is our sense as a result of that meetingand
therefore we will get better information as a result of that.
That is just one of the projects we are going to be undertaking
next year. I have already mentioned the work of Paul Boateng.
As a result of the work that we have done in publishing the next
risk assessment we will revaluate the priorities that we have
set and there will be some additions to that and some changes,
reflecting the changes that are taking place in trends in organised
crime in Northern Ireland. We have got a not inconsiderable programme
of work ahead of us.
Mr McCabe: Thank you very much.
468. You are speaking in wide terms. It is just
a supplementary question regarding the co-operation that exists
between the different agencies. Does that mean that the agencies
are able to circumvent the Data Protection Act and is there a
free exchange of information between the different agencies in
order to pursue the aims that they have?
(Jane Kennedy) No, the agencies would not ignore or
work around the provisions of the Data Protection Act. The Data
Protection Act stands. However, as a result of the most recent
terrrorist legislation put through, for example, the Inland Revenue
can now co-operate much more freely, with the information they
have available about taxpayers and companies' accounts, with the
police than they have been able to in the past. As a direct consequence
of that the Inland Revenue is now represented at the Task Force,
which is a significant step forward. We have been conscious for
quite some time that that was a gap in the work of the Task Force
and we have now plugged that gap.
469. Would it be more effective if the Data
Protection Act did not exist as regards the exchange of information
that can take place?
(Jane Kennedy) David prompts me here that the Data
Protection Acts exists and the provisions of it are honoured.
Mr Tynan: I will take that as the answer then.
470. Did it occur to any of youit has
only just occurred to me, largely as a result of this afternoon's
experiencethat because the problems have been so different
in Northern Ireland for so long, which we all know about, that
it might be a good thing to have your own Assets Recovery Agency,
not necessarily a completely separate organisation but just as
Customs are peculiarly separate in Northern Ireland because the
job is peculiarly different, just as many others are, would you
have liked to have had amongst your Organised Crime Task Force
(which I think is a brilliant concept) an Assets Recovery Agency
to whom you could direct priorities given the new legislation
to take the money away from these guys who are profiting from
organised crime and paramilitary activity?
(Jane Kennedy) Frankly, Chairman, no. To take Customs
as an example although, yes, they operate within Northern Ireland
in a way that reflects the circumstances on the ground, if there
is a specific operation being undertaken it is organised, managed
and run from Manchester or certainly it has been from Manchester,
reflecting the UK-wide structure of Customs and the special investigators
they would use for a specific task are organised from the Manchester
regional office. So in that sense I have not found it to be a
problem and I would not expect it to be a problem with the Assets
Recovery Agency either.
471. Unless they are under-resourced and their
priorities are looking elsewhere. He who pays the piper calls
the tune. Scotland has its own Assets Recovery Agency.
(Jane Kennedy) I am confident that what we are establishing
will meet the needs of Northern Ireland.
472. I am very glad to hear you say that. As
I say, we are entirely on your side in this matter. We are concerned
to see that you get your share of the Home Office's UK-wide pot
and it is a share that reflects the supreme importance of coping
with this particular problem that you have in Northern Ireland.
I cannot say it more strongly than that. I was just offering you
the thought that you might like to consider that because the whole
situation is so special getting them seconded in some way or getting
them a little more under your wing because otherwise I feel you
are going to be a rather poor relation in what seems to me to
be a very minor operation compared with the successful one we
have seen in Dublin.
(Jane Kennedy) Certainly it is my objective to have
a very successful operation in Northern Ireland. I know that is
shared by Home Office Ministers too. The fact, as I said at the
beginning in answer to your first question, that we are going
to be having a senior officer of the ARA as a director of the
Northern Ireland organisation is an indication of the importance
that the Home Office attaches to the project.
Chairman: Keep at it is all I can say. Mr Barnes?
473. I want to ask about protection of witnesses.
Do you have figures for criminal charges against individuals in
Northern Ireland where the cases have been withdrawn because the
complainant has declined to proceed?
(Jane Kennedy) I have only got the figures that were
published in the Chief Constable's Report which do show a slight
decline, but it is difficult to know whether it is a trend or
not. We are commissioning research in the near future in the Northern
Ireland Office which is looking into reasons for withdrawaland
it will be research conducted amongst both witnesses and victims
of crimeso we would look to see what the results of that
opinion research are as to what the reasons behind it were. It
is hard to say at this moment in time whether it is a trend or
474. This is a slight decline over the last
five years or so but are the figures high in comparison to Britain?
(Jane Kennedy) We only have two years of figures.
In 1999-2000 the crimes cleared where the complainant declined
to pursue the charge or declined to prosecute were 11,913. If
you wanted to compare that to the proportion of all crimes that
were cleared, that was 36,004. All recorded crimes of that year
were 119,000. In the following year, which is the last year for
which we have figures and we only have figures for those two years
because prior to 1999 the figures were not recorded in this useable
way, the crimes cleared in the year 2000-01 were 10,874. That
is when the complainant declined to proceed. It is difficult to
say if this is a problem or even if this is a trend.
475. But it is likely to be the case that if
the impression is given that a paramilitary group is involved
that that is liable to silence and terrorise people into withdrawing
allegations that are being put forward.
(Jane Kennedy) There is no doubt at all that that
does take place and that is one of the special problems that we
face in Northern Ireland. That is why we have the special system
of courts that we have there. There are special measures to protect
witnesses in the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order of
1999 and they will be commencing later this year.
476. Is there anything further that you are
engaged in to protect potential witnesses or to encourage them
to come forward?
(Jane Kennedy) If the research that we undertake demonstrates
there is a growing problem then clearly that is something we will
have to address.
477. Just to clarify. You did not answer with
the rest of the UK figures, but I think we are all aware it is
a very high proportion of crimes which are not proceeded with
in Northern Ireland because complainants refuse to proceed compared
to England, Scotland and Wales.
(Jane Kennedy) Which is why we want to understand
what is happening. We know it is a problem. It is simply too early
to say whether it is getting worse or whether the proportions
are increasing or decreasing which lead you to believe that paramilitary
activity is increasing.
Chairman: That was the bit of answer I wanted
to elicit. Mr Barnes?
Mr Barnes: Research into that would be very
The Reverend Martin Smyth
478. Would that research actually deal with
complaints which started in a police station but which were never
proceeded with because in the end the person who complained first
of all was not prepared to go forward, or are we just dealing
with cases that have gone forward for prosecution and then are
withdrawn because the witness withdrew?
(Jane Kennedy) The quick answer is yes. The difficulty
is going to be in identifying the people at all of those stages,
but the intention is to get a comprehensive piece of research
to give us a clear picture of what is happening.
479. On sentencing we have been told that sentences
for crime such as extortion and counterfeiting are significantly
lower than sentences for the more obviously paramilitary-related
crimes. What guidance is available to the courts on sentencing
in relation to crimes which may benefit terrorists?
(Jane Kennedy) I have got to say I am not aware of
any difficulty in regard to sentencing terrorist-related offenders.
The statistics would suggest that offenders whose offences were
scheduled offences would receive longer sentences than offenders
convicted of equivalent de-scheduled offences. There has been
a suggestion that we might consider the use of aggravated offences.
I would want some clear evidence that there was a problem that
either existing sentence lengths were inadequate or that judges
in their sentencing were not reflecting the seriousness of terrrorist
involvement. I do not see any evidence of that as it stands at