Organised Crime Must be Stamped Out says Committee
Date: Thursday, 24 June 2010
Reference: PAC 15/09/10
National and international organised crime is affecting Northern Ireland and tackling it requires co-operation across Government departments, agencies and borders. These are some of the key findings from the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee’s report, Combating Organised Crime, which was published today.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “Organised crime is a form of fraud that goes to the very heart of public finances. It threatens the Executive’s overarching aim of achieving a peaceful, fair and prosperous society, with respect for the rule of law and where everyone can enjoy a better quality of life now and in years to come.
“Its impact on individuals, communities, society and the environment is devastating.For example,human trafficking, a particularly heinous form of organised crime, is on the rise here and causing misery in our midst. Vulnerable women and children falsely enticed here by the prospects of employment, education and a better life, can find themselves the victims of domestic servitude or sexual exploitation. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
Another area that the Committee highlighted was the illegal dumping of waste. The high cost of legitimately disposing of waste has made this an attractive area for criminals and unscrupulous individuals to exploit. Illegal dumping of waste is prevalent in every county of Northern Ireland and the resulting lost revenue is estimated to run to tens of millions of pounds a year. The clean-up costs for some sites can also run into millions.
Paul Maskey said: “This is money that is needed and could better be used for essential front-line services. Vigilance should be the watchword of the public sector and the key message to those involved in organised crime should be that it will not be tolerated and it will not pay. It is also vital that more is done to raise public awareness; the dangers of organised crime need to be continually highlighted.”
Notes to Editors:
- The Committee also found that to counter organised crime effectively, all public sector bodies need to work in partnership, share information and co-ordinate their activities. To do so they need to be briefed on known or suspected organised crime threats against their programmes of expenditure and on ways in which their powers to regulate, license and enforce may play an important role in combating it.
- In the Committee’s opinion this could be achieved through the re-establishment of a mechanism such as the Inter Departmental Working Group on Organised Crime and widening the scope of the Fraud Forum chaired by the Department of Finance and Personnel.
- Given the major threat posed by organised crime and that a number of recommendations relate to policing and justice, the Public Accounts Committee will refer the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Memorandum and Note to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Justice Committee.
- Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have provided for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and reports on accounts laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly. These are compiled and laid by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland (C&AG), head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
- The C&AG is empowered to investigate any area of expenditure and has a statutory right of access to all files and papers in Departments and public bodies.
The PAC Committee members are:
1 With effect from 04 March 2008 Mr Thomas Burns replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Paul Maskey replaced Mr John O'Dowd.
3 With effect from 1 October 2007 Mr Mickey Brady replaced Mr Willie Clarke.
4 With effect from 21 January 2008 Mr Ian McCrea replaced Mr Mickey Brady.
5 With effect from Tuesday 27 May 08 Mr Jim Wells replaced Mr Ian McCrea.
6 with effect from 15 September 2008 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Simon Hamilton.
7 with effect from 15 September 2008 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr David Hilditch.
8 with effect from 29 June 2009 Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Thomas Burns.
9 with effect from 18 September 2009 Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Jim Wells.
10 with effect from 18 September 2009 Mr David Hilditch replaced Mr George Robinson.
11 On 19 April 2010 The Lord Browne replaced Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson.
12 On 19 April 2010 Mr Stephen Moutray replaced Mr Jonathan Craig.