Compromise must urgently be found for agency to work effectively in Northern Ireland, says secretary-of-state.
Delivering a speech in Belfast, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said that she remained concerned that the new law enforcement body was still being denied the opportunity to operate effectively in the province and this needed to be urgently addressed.
She admitted that she shared the concern of many senior policing professionals that the gap in the Agencyâ€™s coverage was being exploited and the â€œability to fight despicable crimes weakenedâ€.
Ms Villiers went on to point out it was â€œdeeply regrettableâ€ that wrangling between political parties was preventing the full roll-out of the NCA â€“ despite the Home Office offering flexibility and making it clear that the the chief constable would have â€œprimacyâ€ for law enforcement.
She added: â€œIt may have â€˜nationalâ€™ in its name but the UK government completely accepts the crucial importance of ensuring the NCAâ€™s operations in Northern Ireland are consistent with the devolution settlement.
â€œThis is why the Home Secretary has agreed a number of significant changes to provide the necessary assurance and guarantee the primacy of the chief constable.â€
The NCA was rolled out to the mainland UK in October last year. Headed by the former Warwickshire chief Keith Bristow, it is formed of four commands dealing with organised crime, border policing, child exploitation and economic crime.
But it only has a limited remit in Northern Ireland after Sinn Fein and the SDLP blocked a move to give the Agency full powers amid concerns that it could be unaccountable.
The NCA is responsible to Home Secretary Theresa May but policing in the province is accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board under the Belfast Agreement. The consent of the provinceâ€™s Executive would be needed for it to fully operate there.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has said the NCA could only work alongside the force in the province â€“ with final operational control resting with the chief constable.
The force is also on record as saying that there needs to be â€œcomplete transparencyâ€ of the NCAâ€™s intelligence and investigations as well as operational activity. This would enable the chief to be held accountable for Agency operations through the policing board.
Ms Villiers added: â€œI believed it is now time for the Northern Ireland Executive to press ahead on the NCA and put common sense and the interests of the public above idealogy, so that the NCA is allowed to work properly in Northern Ireland for the good of all citizens.
â€œTo me, it is deeply regrettable that despite months of talks and a willingness by (Northern Irelanmd Justice Minister) David Ford and the Home Office to be flexible, some parties remain opposed to the Assembly legislation needed to allow the NCA to operate with its full range of powers.â€
From Police Oracle