Policing in the UK: Serious and Organised Crime

The House of Lords Library Briefing explores the nature of Serious and Organised Crime in the UK. It includes statistics on the scale of the problem as well as information on the response by the Government and the National Crime Agency.

Download the full report

Serious and organised crime (SOC) is criminal activity that is planned, coordinated and committed by people working individually, in groups, or as part of transnational networks. It usually centres on acquiring money, profit, influence and power. Sexual gratification is also a motivator in some cases. Such offences are often committed by organised crime groups (OCGs), who use violence, corruption and intimidation to protect their criminal activities.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has stated that SOC affects more UK citizens, more often, than any other national security threat. It has a daily impact on citizens, public services, businesses, institutions, national reputation and infrastructure.

In the UK, no single official or body is in overall charge of the response to SOC. Rather, there are over 100 government departments, law enforcement bodies, agencies and other organisations involved in tackling this type of crime. Operationally, the NCA leads and coordinates the UK’s response. It also publishes an annual national strategic assessment on the issue, highlighting key findings and trends.

The UK Government and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland and Scotland are responsible for policy, including serious and organised crime. In England and Wales, the Home Office has overall responsibility for policy, strategy and funding, including the publication of the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy. In October 2019, the UK Government announced an independent review, led by Sir Craig Mackay, to support the implementation of the SOC strategy.

There is no dedicated funding stream for tackling serious and organised crime. The work is financed through several unconnected funding streams by sources that are subject to annual bidding and decision processes.

Both the National Audit Office and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee have recently looked at the UK Government’s strategic response to serious and organised crime, arguing that while there are examples of good work, “there remain some significant and avoidable shortcomings”. In addition, the director general of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens, has called for an increase to the amount of funding aimed at tackling serious and organised crime.

Download the full report