Long: We must ensure that crime does not pay

Date published: 09 February 2022

Justice Minister Naomi Long has praised the partners represented on the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) for delivering a series of successful operations, including significant seizures of drugs, cigarettes and counterfeit goods.

Justice Minister pictured at  cyber crime centre

Speaking during a visit to the PSNI Cyber Crime Centre in Belfast to mark publication of the 2020/21 OCTF Annual Report, Naomi Long said: “The increasing reports of cybercrime are of particular concern to me.

“I very much welcome the opportunity to see the range of ongoing work to tackle the threats posed by cyber criminals including ransomware attacks, hacking, phishing and fraud. Criminals are adept at using the online world to conduct their activities and it is important that we are able respond to this threat.  This is a key priority for the OCTF.”

During 2020/21 operations by OCTF partners resulted in a wide range of successful disruptions, including over 8,000 drugs seizures by PSNI as well as seizures by Border Force of over 400kg of drugs including almost 26kg of Class A drugs, over 1.6 million cigarettes and 2,890 kg tobacco, 265,000 illicit prescription items and over 20,000 items of counterfeit goods.   150 potential victims of modern slavery were also identified and provided with support.

Praising partner agencies for their relentless approach to assessing threat levels, disrupting organised crime groups and bringing criminals to justice, Naomi Long said: “Responding to serious organised crime is difficult and challenging work, and I am impressed and encouraged by the dedication, commitment and resolve of all those involved at both strategic and operational levels.  

“The combined efforts of law enforcement partners continues to play a significant role in delivering the collective aim of ensuring we can all live in safer communities, where we respect the law and each other.

“Collectively, we need to ensure that serious organised crime does not pay.  A key priority for me as Justice Minister has been the commencement of the Northern Ireland provisions of the Criminal Finances Act 2017.  I am pleased that these additional provisions are now in place, bringing this jurisdiction into line with arrangements across the UK. Law enforcement agencies can now avail of a range of new asset recovery powers to disrupt the activity of organised crime groups and strip away the ill-gotten gains of the individuals connected to them. I would urge the public, and anyone who has concerns, to note the case studies in this report and to contact the police or any of the helplines provided, if they suspect that someone is a victim of organised crime or they have any information to help bring these criminals to justice. 

“Organised criminality takes many forms and in response my department leads on both the Organised Crime Strategy and the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Strategy.  I look forward to continued co-operation with OCTF partners to deliver the strategic actions under the complementary aims of each strategy.”

Photo caption

Pictured at the launch of the OCTF Annual Report 2020/21 at the PSNI Cyber Crime Centre (l to r) are D/C Supt John McVea PSNI; D/C Inspector Paul Woods PSNI; Justice Minister Naomi Long and ACC Mark McEwan, PSNI

Pictured at the launch of the OCTF Annual Report 2020/21 at the PSNI Cyber Crime Centre are Justice Minister Naomi Long and ACC Mark McEwan, PSNI.

Justice Minister pictured with Cyber Crime staff

Notes to editors: 

1.  The annual report and threat assessment 2020 - 2021 is available at the publication section of the DoJ website

2.  The OCTF was established in 2000 and works to reduce the harm caused by organised crime, through multi agency partnership and to secure a safe community in Northern Ireland, where we respect the law and each other.

3.  OCTF provides an essential strategic leadership forum for tackling organised crime in Northern Ireland.

The OC Strategy and MSHT Strategy are available at the publication section of this website.

4. Key partners include: Department of Justice, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Public Prosecution Service, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force, National Crime Agency, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, An Garda Síochána, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit, NI Environment Agency and Trading Standards.

5. More information about the work of the OCTF can be found on the OCTF website.

6. Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email at: press.office@justice-ni.gsi.gov.uk

7.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.

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