Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech at the Philip Lawrence Awards

Below is the text of the speech made by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, on 2 December 2008.

I am very pleased to be here today to meet the Philip Lawrence Award winners.

The Awards recognise the tremendous achievements of the many young people spending their own time to make a positive change in their communities.

Not only that, but they stand as a tremendous tribute to the memory Philip Lawrence and as a testament to the determination of Frances to honour that memory in a very meaningful way.

Continued support for the Awards

It is my privilege to be here today to show our continued support for the Awards that were first set up by Michael Howard in 1996 with the full approval of Frances.

She has been a great example to us all over the years and the Awards have provided an important platform for recognising the many people who work so hard to combat violence, vandalism, bullying and racism wherever they find it.

Far too often in the media, young people are portrayed as criminal or yobs. But these youngsters represent a tiny minority of the youth of this country.

I share Frances’ view that every child is capable of greatness. I also believe that the vast majority want to play a role in making our society a better place to live for everyone.

Celebrating outstanding contributions

That’s why we are here today. To celebrate the outstanding contribution that young people make to our society. To redress the balance and to show that young people can – and do – make a positive contribution to our communities.

The fact that we received so many nominations from all around the country clearly demonstrates the positive impact that young people are having across our towns and cities every day.

I met the initial panel in September when they were sifting through the mountain of entries and I have to say they had their work cut out for them. But the effort was well worth it and what fantastic winners we have.

We have ‘Reclaim’ from Manchester who have been working hard to challenge negative stereotypes and behaviour, as well as tackling youth violence in their area.

Giving young people a voice on social issues

We are also recognising the work of the ‘Young Muslim Voices Listen Up’ Project in London.

This particular group gives young people a voice on social issues through film, music, discussion, and even sports – as we saw with the ‘Kick Islamaphobia’ football tournament.

That particular scheme involved two local Mosques, Arsenal Football Club, Connexions and the Police.

Other winners hail from Ayrshire and Yorkshire and from the Midlands to Merseyside. Each group has shown how young people can work together to deal with some really challenging issues like strengthening links across the generations; sexual health; drug abuse and knife crime.

The commitment, enthusiasm and energy of these young people stands as an example to us all of how we can work together to tackle these issues head-on.

At the same time, they are building new skills, forging new friendships and setting the foundations for the stronger communities we all want to see.

I know that many previous winners have gone on to be involved with the Philip Lawrence Awards through joining the judging panel or taking part in interviews or other events. This is also something that I’m sure this year’s winners will want to do as well.

Positive about the future

Before I finish, I want to make one more point.

What’s very clear from today is that we don’t live in a ‘broken Britain’. In fact, seeing the energy and commitment of the groups represented here today, I believe we can be quite positive about the future.

You only need to meet some of the young people here to know that there are all sorts of people up and down our country giving up their own time for others.

So I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to be here and I want to congratulate you all again on your achievements.

Thank you.

Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech on Preventing Violent Extremism

Below is the text of the speech made by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, at the Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism on 10 December 2008.

Good morning.

It may only be the second Prevent Conference, but we have come a long way over the past year and for that I want to thank you for all your hard work.

The importance of our work has been brought into stark relief by recent events.

The horrific and savage attacks on innocent people across Mumbai demonstrate all too clearly that terrorists do not care who they kill.

The victims were Muslim… they were Sikh… they were Hindu… they were Jewish… they were Christian… indeed, whatever faith they were, it’s clear that the terrorists made no distinction.

In September, we saw an attack at the Marriott in Islamabad. Again, innocent people were killed and maimed indiscriminately – taking no account of age, colour or religion.

And going back through all the terrorist attacks in recent years, we have seen the same tale of horror and misery repeated, including here in the UK – in London, in Glasgow and in Exeter.

Our sympathy goes out to the families of all those killed and injured – not just in India or Pakistan or Britain, but in every country that has had the misfortune to suffer from such attacks.

But again we are left asking “Why?”

There are extremists out there who suggest that these attacks can somehow be justified by some twisted interpretation of Islam. They cannot. Indeed, many of the victims of these attacks were themselves Muslim.

That’s why so many groups around the world have utterly condemned these terrorist acts.

Influential religious bodies in both India and Pakistan have this year proclaimed suicide bombing to be forbidden by Islam. Former high-profile terrorist supporters have denounced the use of violence.

And here in the UK – The Hindu Forum of Britain, the British Muslim Forum, and the Muslim Council of Britain have all come out to condemn the terrorist atrocities in Mumbai, to name just three from a long list.

It is clear that violent extremists do not truly represent any religion or community. They are simply criminals and terrorists.

Rapidly evolving terror threat

It is also clear we are facing a rapidly evolving terror threat that spans the globe, as well as being relevant at local level.

As such, we all have a duty to be even more prepared, more vigilant and more determined than ever to prevent further terrorist attacks taking place – no matter where that threat arises.

As you know, the threat level in the UK remains severe. In other words, an attack is highly likely.

The police and the security services are working all-out to disrupt and negate that threat. But we also need the public to remain vigilant – to trust their instincts; to pass information to the police; and to keep our shared responsibility to help keep each other safe.

In addition, we have to make sure the infrastructure is in place at national level and international level – whether that means getting the right legislation on the books or enhancing coordination across the various agencies.

However, even that will not be enough. We cannot simply arrest our way out of the threat.

That’s why our long term strategy is ultimately about stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism in the first place.

That is why we have to work particularly hard at local level to make sure that we are tackling violent extremism before it can take root – before the ideologies of fear and hatred can infiltrate and poison our society.

And that is why your work with Prevent is so important.

More funding for Prevent

You are key in delivering this – and as we will hear from Hazel in a moment – it’s already working.

I know that Hazel will want to talk about the success of the Pathfinders scheme, so I won’t go into any detail myself. However, I do want to commend the police for the way they have responded to the challenges of Prevent.

The Police have recognised that the community needs to be at the heart of their strategy in tackling this threat. They have prioritised a partnership approach that includes working closely with schools, colleges, universities, and across communities.

This marks real progress and to support these activities even further, we are funding more than 300 new Prevent police posts over three years.

£16 million will be spent this year creating new posts across 24 priority forces, as well as funding several other initiatives such as the Channel programme, which is currently up and running in 6 forces.

I’ll just say a little bit about Channel since it is an excellent example of partnership in practice.

This scheme identifies individuals that may be vulnerable to getting swept up in violent extremism and refers them toward multi-agency support.

Since it started in April 2007, the two pilot sites in London and the North West have received over 100 referrals. We are going to expand this further and the aim is that by the end of the financial year, we will bring the total number of sites up to approximately 25 operating across 12 police forces.

Prevent is still a relatively new strategic programme and I think the successes we’ve seen to date show that it is effective. But as always, there is more to do.

I am determined to make sure that we continue to support your efforts and, to that end, I am delighted to announce we have just granted a further £5.8 million to Prevent.

This funding comes in addition to the £12.5 million we announced in June this year and the extra money will be used at local level to fund a wide range of projects to disrupt radicalisers, strengthen institutions and support vulnerable individuals.

Future projects

One project we have in mind is a scheme to develop a Pan-London Somali Youth forum that will operate across 16 boroughs and work with Somali youths who may be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Another programme we’ve identified involves boosting the Prevent capacity and capability in universities.

We are not stopping there though. A further £5 million will be made available this financial year for local authorities, government offices and the police in support of our work in schools and colleges.

Focusing on younger age groups is important and these funds will help local schools and colleges put into practice the advice in the DCSF toolkit that Ed Balls published in October.

We are constantly analysing our performance and trying to find out how we can do more. We are also listening to you.

That’s why, for example, Hazel and I will be setting out simply and clearly how all these different funding streams will sit together ahead of the next financial year.

Some of you have also raised the point that your would like more information about the threats and vulnerabilities in your area.

So from the New Year we are introducing a process for sharing information that will enable all local authority chief executives and police borough commanders to see a ‘CT local profile’.

This includes an assessment of the vulnerabilities in a particular area, as well as an analysis of the factors that can contribute to radicalisation. It will also detail further research on extremist groups active in the UK and the ideologies they try to promote.

Again, this is part of our commitment to ensure that you have all the tools and information you need to target activities and resources as effectively as possible.

Where necessary, we will support you with changes that can only be delivered by national government. As such, we have introduced legislation to tackle those who incite violence.

Not only that, but just in the past few weeks we made it easier to exclude from the UK any foreign national who promotes hate.

More than legal solutions

But tackling extremism cannot just be about legal solutions. It is about supporting those who have real knowledge within Muslim communities, who can point authoritatively to how violence and separateness are not part of our shared values.

A great example of how we are doing this is the work we are doing on the Internet.

We know that radicalisers use the internet to prey on vulnerable individuals. As a result, we recently worked with companies that provide internet filtering products to strengthen the protection they offer against online material that can promote violent extremism.

And for the first time tomorrow we will host a core network of people who will put forward positive messages from the British Muslim community on the internet, directly challenging the extremists that set out to groom vulnerable individuals.

This readiness to make a civil challenge to extremists wherever they are is important and I can illustrate that with another recent example.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Luton and see at first hand the ‘ambassadors for Islam’ scheme funded by the local authority and supported by the police and other partners.

This initiative is doing a great job working with young Muslims in the community. It aims to build understanding and equip them with the tools they need to counter extremist ideologies and develop them into role models of the future.

What is even more important than the skills they are learning, though, are the values that underpin the mentoring scheme.

There was a strong sense of pride in being Muslim AND being British. A recognition of what they could contribute and a determination to make the most of the opportunities this country has to offer.

These young people – like the ones I met recently at a similar project in Waltham Forest – are our future, just as much as any other group of confident, articulate, challenging young adults. So it is vital we get them engaged and the project is doing a good job on that.

But I have noticed something else during my visits around the country.

As we have rolled out the Prevent strategy and become more effective in challenging extremist ideologies, we have seen a greater challenge from extremist groups who are careful to avoid promoting violence.

Instead they cynically skirt the fringes of laws that rightly defend free speech to promote hate-filled ideologies.

They may not explicitly promote violence, but they can create a climate of fear and distrust where violence becomes more likely.

These are the groups that fail to speak out and condemn violence when any reasonable person would be outraged.

In many cases, mosques, community centres and other institutions are being targeted by the Far Right, as well as by those peddling their particular brand of antidemocratic ideology in the guise of religion.

On both sides, these extremists are trying to create the idea that being Muslim and being British are incompatible.

Clearly, they are not. But the lesson here is that we need to respond to the extremists out there who are working to undermine the democratic and inclusive values that these young Muslims exemplify.

Confident as they are, these young people are having to put up with threats, intimidation and general abuse and that is something we all need to make a stand on.

This is not the only example. Take the case of Derby where an extremist group sought to take over a community centre by worming its way into the management structure.

The community banded together and drove this outside pressure away.

We applaud that and want to support it.

That’s why we have to work even harder to ensure that we are supporting the positive individuals in our communities, especially when it sometimes takes real bravery to make a stand.

That is why we are getting money and support into the grassroots of all our communities so they can respond.

Emphasising all that we share

Tackling extremists cannot just be about legal solutions. That is why we are giving a strong governmental lead by supporting and funding those who promote shared values. And this is why we are calling for a civic, as well as a legal challenge, against those who seek to undermine us. All of these elements are central to the Prevent strategy.

Hazel has made this case strongly and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has been up and down the country in the last few months setting out our position on key foreign policy issues.

He is responding to the legitimate concerns of Muslim and other communities, but he has also been very ready to challenge those who want to twist their concerns into a general critique of our inclusive and liberal democracy.

We won’t win the argument by running scared. And we certainly will not be intimidated.

The message is loud and clear – we have the intellectual, moral and emotional confidence to take on the extremists and we will defeat them using every democratic means at our disposal.

We must all challenge the extremists, racists, and apologists for both, and not define any community by its extreme elements.

For despite what the extremists may want, our country is not built on hatred. It is built on shared values – tolerance, compassion and a respect for democracy and the rule of law. At heart, it is about fair rules and a fair say for everyone.

The threat we face is significant. But our most profound response is to have the confidence in people of all faiths and backgrounds to stand up for our shared values.

The appetite to fight for these shared values is there and that’s why – despite what the extremists may try – I’m confident that we will succeed.

Britain has always been stronger and more united because of its rich mix of people and cultures and the values they share.

That is who we are, and that is why we will face down this challenge together.

Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech at the Intellect Trade Association

Below is the text of the speech made by Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, on 16 December 2008.

Today I’d like to address one of the most pressing questions we face as a modern society – how we secure our rights and liberties as individuals, at the same time as ensuring the wider protection of all in our society against terrorism, crime and disorder.

Balancing these individual and collective rights has always been a key responsibility of government. And in an era of rapid technological change, it is right that we should constantly satisfy ourselves that we have got the balance right.

Looking back over the year, we’ve seen the question raised in some new – and it’s fair to say, peculiar – ways.

In June, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden booked himself a footnote in the history books by resigning from parliament and the Conservative front-bench, only to return to the Commons a month later.

And one night in April – less than a mile from here, just off Oxford Street – the artist Banksy left his calling card, with a piece of 30 foot high graffiti that proclaimed ‘ONE NATION UNDER CCTV’.

Eight months later, it’s still there – with a CCTV camera watching over it. And while it’s probably done wonders for the value of that gable wall, we’re entitled to ask how much this effort, and others like them, have hit the right target.

A nation under CCTV?

Are we, really, a nation under CCTV? Do we, today, live in what critics call a surveillance society?

I don’t believe so, not for one moment. But I welcome the debate. And while not condoning graffiti per se, I understand the need to keep revisiting these issues in an open and democratic society.

We are – all of us, as citizens, consumers, businesses and government – now presented with a host of new ways to capture, analyse and use data.

And there are clear benefits:

– retailers, banks, and insurance companies delivering more personalised and efficient services

– nurseries using online webcams to reassure parents that their children are in good hands

– sat nav technology making people’s everyday lives easier, whether it’s working out the route of a journey or accessing information from your mobile phone

– strengthening the frontline against crime, with handheld computers and mobile fingerprint devices meaning the police can spend more time out of the station

In the space of a century, we have moved from setting up the first fingerprint branch in Scotland Yard in 1901 to the regular use of DNA today to extend and backdate the ability to investigate crime.

To put it another way, we have seen elementary policing progress from the deductions of Sherlock Holmes and his dear sidekick right through to the forensic use of the discoveries of Francis Crick and Dr Watson’s namesake.

These developments have brought opportunities and challenges in their wake.

In some cases, like with DNA or the use of covert surveillance powers, it means rethinking our regulations and ensuring high standards of safeguards.

In other cases, as with the rapid growth of online communications, new technology demands that we find new ways to maintain the protections we currently rely on for the public good.

Early in the new year, we will consult on how to best continue tracking information relating to serious and organised crime and terrorism in this new environment.

As today’s verdict in the trial for the murder of Rhys Jones has shown, communications data can form an important part of prosecution evidence. And indeed this information – on the fact that communication has taken place, but not on its content – plays a role in some 95% of all really serious criminal cases, such as murder, drugs trafficking, and child sex abuse.

If this capability isn’t to be lost due to the growth of online communications, it’s clear that we need to respond and adapt to technological change.

As always, of course, new technology presents opportunity gaps for criminals as well – a set of early adopters if ever there was one, always on the look-out for new ways to exploit weaknesses.

Identity fraudsters, child pornographers, and international terrorists – all have made extensive use of the internet. And, our response – working with industry on the responsible use of social networking sites, for example, or to develop filtering software – has had to adapt constantly to stay ahead of the game.

One thing is clear. The eager take-up of innovation in the consumer sector does not mean that government itself can proceed without caution, or without robust safeguards in place.

Common sense guidelines

The public expect us to make use of technology to protect them – and that is a clear priority for me. We would be failing in our duty to do otherwise.

When we talk about fingerprints…CCTV cameras…DNA swabs…or scanning machines at airports…I think that people instinctively understand that these technologies, used properly, are vital tools against crime, terrorism and illegal immigration.

But I also recognise the absolute necessity of getting the balance on privacy right.

And so today I want to set out some basic tests, and set out the direction of travel for some of our key policies.

Are there appropriate safeguards in place – to keep data secure, for example, and to provide independent oversight where appropriate – as we have progressively built into how the National Identity Scheme operates?

Are we being as transparent as possible – and as with ID cards, how do we provide individual citizens with the right level of choice and control?

Where surveillance powers are used, are they kept in proportion to the damage and the threat they are seeking to prevent?

And perhaps the toughest question of all – does it stand up to the test of common sense?

Safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

For the public to have confidence that we will protect them and protect their rights, it is our responsibility as a government to ensure that these standards apply even as technology evolves.

RIPA consultation

Ten days ago, on a trip to Tower Hamlets, I saw how an entire neighbourhood had had their daily lives made a misery for months by the behaviour of people in one particular flat – until the local council and the police got a premises closure order and boarded it up. That order was only made possible because covert CCTV had helped capture the evidence of anti-social behaviour and crime.

There are literally hundreds of cases like this, where the police and local authorities access investigatory powers like covert surveillance and communications data under RIPA – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – and use these powers fairly and squarely to help law-abiding people to hit back against the yobs and bring criminals to book.

But even as we recognise the usefulness of RIPA, we have to be sure that it is being used properly. Even with the clear safeguards that RIPA requires for the use of communications data and covert surveillance, I am concerned at the level of misunderstanding there is about what these powers are, who has access to them, and what they can be used for.

Let’s be clear. RIPA is not anti-terror legislation, as is sometimes suggested. RIPA limits the use of investigatory powers, and makes sure they are used properly and proportionately. The legislation provides for oversight by independent commissioners and routes for individuals to complain if they feel the use of these powers has been unjustified.

While most of the investigations local authorities carry out are important – like protecting the public from dodgy traders, trapping fly tippers who dump tonnes of rubbish on an industrial scale across the countryside, or tackling the misery caused by noisy and disruptive neighbours – there are clearly cases where these powers should not be used.

I don’t want to see them being used to target people for putting their bins out on the wrong day, for dog fouling offences, or to check whether paper boys are carrying sacks that are too heavy.

Local council requests amount to a tiny proportion of the overall numbers – but nonetheless, it’s essential to make sure we’ve got the balance right. And it’s these tales of ‘dustbin Stasi’ and examples of excessive intrusion that give the responsible and respectable use of the powers a bad name.

Early next year, we will consult on a number of proposed changes to RIPA – and we will look at:

– revisions to the Codes of Practice that come under the Act;

– which public authorities can use RIPA powers; and

– raising the bar for how those powers are authorised, and who authorises their use.

One question I will be asking of local authorities is whether the powers are authorised at a high enough level. Would it reinforce public confidence, and avoid frivolous use of the powers, if they could only be done with the consent of a senior executive, and subject to a form of oversight from elected councillors?

I am determined to maintain robust powers to tackle crime and disorder. But to allay public fears of excessive intrusion, and to keep people’s trust and confidence in the wider necessity of these powers to tackle disorder, crime and terrorism, I am equally clear that we have to measure these efforts against our standards for safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

DNA

The same principles apply to DNA evidence. Having looked at this area particularly closely over the past year, I’ve found there are few areas where the balance between rights and protections comes into such stark relief as on DNA.

The recent European Court judgement in the S and Marper case has put the issue back in the spotlight.

Many of you will have seen the response of victims’ families to the recent ruling – notably the family of Sally Ann Bowman, whose killer was convicted as a result of DNA taken after he was arrested following a pub brawl and subsequently acquitted.

I have real sympathy for all those with concerns that any move could undermine a system that helped trap Sally Ann’s killer. And I want to reassure Sally Ann’s father that I will not let that happen.

In this and other cases, we’ve seen convictions for serious crimes of culprits who had had their DNA taken and retained for a previous crime where they were arrested, but not convicted.

In May 2002, Kensley Larrier was arrested for the possession of an offensive weapon. His DNA was taken and loaded to the DNA database, although the proceedings were then discontinued. Two years later, DNA from a rape investigation was speculatively searched against the database and matched his sample. This was the only evidence in the case, and when found guilty Larrier received a 5 year custodial sentence and was entered on the sex offenders register for life.

These cases and others tell me that the DNA database is crucial to public protection. It not only helps to lead to the guilty. It helps to prove innocence and to rule people out as suspects.

There is more we can do to strengthen the dividing line between guilt and innocence. For those who have committed a serious offence, our retention policies need to be as tough as possible.

But for others, including children, I am convinced that we need to be more flexible in our approach.

The DNA of children under 10 – the age of criminal responsibility – should no longer be held on the database. There are around 70 such cases, and we will take immediate steps to take them off.

For those under the age of 18, I think we need to strike the right balance between protecting the public and being fair to the individual.

There’s a big difference between a 12 year old having their DNA taken for a minor misdemeanour and a 17 year old convicted of a violent offence, and next year I will set out in a White Paper on Forensics how we ensure that that difference is captured in the arrangements for DNA retention.

We will consult on bringing greater flexibility and fairness into the system by stepping down some individuals over time – a differentiated approach, possibly based on age, or on risk, or on the nature of the offences involved.

That may mean letting the 12 year old I mentioned come off the database once they reach adulthood. And it could mean limiting how long the profiles of those who have been arrested but not convicted of an offence could be retained.

We are also re-examining retention arrangements for samples. Physical samples of hair and saliva swabs that represent people’s actual DNA are much more sensitive than the DNA profile that is kept on the database – which only uses a small part of non-coding DNA.

This was a key point flagged up when we set up the Ethics Group under the National DNA Database Strategy Board, and we will pursue improvements to the safeguards around the handling of samples.

These changes will see some people coming off the system. But as I said, we need to strengthen the dividing lines between innocence and guilt – and so I want to do more to ensure we get the right people onto the system as well.

No matter when they were convicted, I want to see the most serious offenders on the database. That’s why we are working with the police to increase the number of convicted offenders on it, starting with those now serving time in prison for rape and murder. And we will also look at whether we need to extend powers so that the police can take DNA samples for a longer period after conviction and from those convicted overseas when they return to the UK.

As I said at the beginning, the use of DNA in investigations is one of the breakthroughs for modern policing. And it’s an area where I’m proud to say that Britain is leading the world.

The strengths of the DNA database can only be safeguarded if they enjoy the confidence and trust of the public – and so the changes we will set out in the White Paper will deliver a more proportionate, fair and common sense approach.

CCTV

It may disappoint Banksy to hear it, but one area where I am quite clear that we have the confidence and support of the public is on the use of CCTV cameras.

I mentioned the use of CCTV to help evict noisy neighbours. On a wider scale, CCTV has helped to reclaim our town centres and public spaces for the law-abiding majority. It’s playing a key role in crime prevention and in reducing the fear of crime – in turn bolstering the confidence of communities to stand up to vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

And it was footage from CCTV cameras, of course, that was crucial in the prosecution of the men who planned suicide bombings on public transport in London on 21 July 2005.

Up and down the country, MPs and local councillors are inundated with requests for more cameras on the streets.

And on the boulevards, too, perhaps – with President Sarkozy now arguing that France should follow our lead and increase the use of CCTV in public areas.

With the growing number of business-related CCTV cameras in operation, there are clear opportunities for closer working in the fight against crime.

I want to see more police forces follow the lead of Cheshire constabulary, who are now mapping out the location of CCTV cameras in shops and offices in their region, so that if they do need to access footage for a serious crime like murder or child abduction, they can get to the source quickly before the evidence is lost.

Conclusion

It’s by using new technologies and new resources in an innovative way – particularly when they’re combined with tried and tested approaches – that we can keep ahead in the fight against crime.

And where we can demonstrate that different arms of the state can tackle those who wilfully persist in crime or anti-social behaviour – like checking persistent offenders against TV Licensing and DVLA databases, and running checks for benefit fraud and council tax payments – I think there are few who would argue that it was not common sense, proportionate or public-spirited to do so.

At a time when technology is moving more quickly than ever before, and in an age where the public has never been better informed and more rigorous in their scrutiny of authority, it is fitting that the age-old question of how we get the balance right between individual and collective protections should continue to be asked.

This afternoon, I have outlined how we will continue to set the highest standards for ourselves in recalibrating that balance for today’s world, and how we will ensure that fair rules continue to be fairly applied.

Over the next few months, I want to engage the public in a discussion based on the protections and security we all derive from getting this balance right.

The public are our best defence against crime and terrorism. But I know they will not thank us if the systems we design to protect them are too intrusive. And so I will continue to put safeguards and openness, a sense of proportion and above all common sense, at the heart of everything we do.

Thank you.

Jacqui Smith – 2008 Speech to the Conference of European Organised Crime

I am very glad to be able to speak at the conference today. I very much welcome the themes of the conference, to examine policy and practice in tackling organised crime, by bringing together UK and EU experience.

Whilst organised crime may operate at national and international level, its effects are felt in every community. I say that because organised crime does not exist in some sort of vacuum. It fuels all manner of criminal and anti-social behaviour in our communities. We all know the blight and dangers which drug dealing and using brings to our streets. But it is important to remember that organised criminals also deal in cheap alcohol, tobacco and, shockingly, in people as well. The violence of the organised crime groups themselves, the misery inflicted on individual victims and the damage to our communities make this a phenomenon that we must tackle.

Reduced to financial terms we estimate that the economic and social costs in the UK are in excess of £20bn. They manifest themselves in various ways but most notably in the form of drug related crime. That is a huge sum but in itself does not illustrate what is happening in our communities as a result. It is protecting those communities in which I am interested. An effective response to organised crime is part of that.

In the UK in recent years we have gone to great lengths to make the country a more difficult place for organised criminals to operate. Government has carried through legislative change and reformed the organisations we task to tackle organised crime. But success can only be achieved through a strong partnership.

In particular, a partnership approach between Government and law enforcement. We set overall strategic priorities, while law enforcement drive the effort at the front end. But there are other partners as well. We see our role as supporting law enforcement by providing necessary powers and assisting in dealing with third parties whose contribution can be important (for example the private sector). And, as today’s conference makes clear whilst impact is local, influence needs to be international if we’re to achieve real results. Legislation

Firstly, I’d like to outline some of the changes in legislation that we’ve introduced. Like many other countries, we have introduced legislation on proceeds of crime and money laundering. Organised criminals are out to make money and do not like losing it. We need to do all we can to identify dirty money which gets into the legitimate financial system; and to confiscate criminally derived assets. Asset recovery prevents and deters future crime, raises the cost of crime, and allows some payback to victims and society. We regard it as a necessary and powerful instrument for tackling organised criminals.

In addition the law enforcement authorities in the UK now benefit from a wider range of tools to do their job.

Over the last couple of years we have,

-Put the giving of Queen’s Evidence on a statutory footing so that offenders assisting investigations and prosecutions can benefit from lesser sentences if they testify against their criminal associates

-Made provision in certain circumstances for persons to be required to answer questions, provide information or produce documents for the investigation

-Introduced Financial Reporting Orders where a convicted person can be required to report on his financial affairs for a number of years, up to a maximum of twenty.

-And created Serious Crime Prevention Orders which will allow prohibitions or restrictions to be put on the activities of a person involved in serious crime. The aim will be to prevent them committing further crime, for example by limiting communication or association with other people.

These last two measures are very much aimed at life-time offender management. For the most serious career organised criminals we believe that it is necessary to fetter and disrupt their activities over a period of time. It is insufficient, for example, when they have completed a prison sentence simply to let them carry on as they have before, and as they wish. Organisations

I would like to turn now to the organisational changes we have made for tackling organised crime.

First and foremost we have created the Serious Organised Crime Agency [Bill Hughes the Director General has spoken earlier about its work].

It started business in April 2006 and was set up to tackle organised crime in a rather different way from its predecessors. Instead of asking the agency to work exclusively on preventing and detecting serious organised crime we have also asked it to consider how it can contribute to the reduction of such crime in other ways and to reduce the harms it causes.

We have also asked the organisation to pay more attention to understanding organised crime. That is, improving the intelligence picture so that organised crime is tackled through an approach which prioritises networks and markets doing the most harm.

Underpinning that approach is the UK Threat Assessment which describes the threat and the National Intelligence Requirement which aims in a systematic way to fill intelligence gaps.

I welcome the way that SOCA has gone about its tasks so far. The Government and they recognise that tackling organised crime is not a job for them alone. They have developed a control strategy comprising a number of programmes of activity which are truly collaborative.

Those programmes comprise representatives from all the relevant agencies – for example, police forces, HM Revenue and Customs and the Prison Service. It is only by bringing together all those with an interest into coherent programmes that real progress can be made. I very much support that approach.

SOCA, working with partners, can already point to significant successes. Last year it was involved in seizures of 74 tonnes of Class A drugs and 1,700 arrests made in the UK and around the world. Those are good results in an organisation in its early days. I am looking forward to more.

This year, we will merge the Asset Recovery Agency into SOCA. Bringing together the financial investigative skills, expertise and experience of both organisations will ensure the most effective investigative tools and techniques can be used against criminals. It fits with the priority of disrupting organised crime finance and SOCA’s responsibility for reducing harm.

This year also sees the creation of the UK Border Agency through an amalgamation of the Border and Immigration Agency and part of HM Revenue and Customs. An agency with a strong remit to control the movement of people and freight will strengthen our ability to tackle the international aspects of organised crime.

I would not, though, want to imply that the law enforcement authorities should provide the sole response to organised crime. They have to be helped in their tasks.

Private bodies can, and do, provide support and co-operation in the prevention, detection and prosecution of organised crime. For example, financial service providers report suspicions transactions and communication service providers retain and disclose data which help investigations. These are all very important. They need to be encouraged and the doors kept open for sharing data and information in appropriate circumstances.

I know this is an area of work in which SOCA is investing a good deal of time and effort. Gun Crime

We need to be able to respond to particular challenges with new ways of working and new partnerships. In recent years, for example, we have seen firearms being used by younger people, in a sometimes chaotic environment. Not, in itself organised crime, but clearly supported and facilitated by trade in guns and often linked to gang membership.

Sadly, Liverpool has been among the cities to be affected and you will all be aware of the recent tragic murder of Rhys Jones.

In September, I set up the Tackling Gangs Action Programme to develop multi-agency work in neighbourhoods in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool where the majority of firearms offences occur. One strand of the work focuses on the supply of firearms. We know that firearms come into the UK from other EU member states, some of which may be through organised criminal gangs. The Serious Organised Crime Agency and HM Revenue and Customs have raised the priority of this issue and are working with police and colleagues across the EU to gather intelligence and choke off this supply. Last year SOCA were involved in recovering more than 150 firearms; and a co-ordinated day of action on 28 November last year in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London resulted in the seizure of 10 firearms and over 1,000 realistic imitations.

We are also focusing on enforcement – ensuring that those committing these offences are brought to justice – enhancing support and protection for witnesses, as well as a range of prevention activity to make sure young people are able to achieve their potential and do not become involved in criminal and gang activity. In the EU context

So far I have spoken very much about what we have been doing in the UK. But when dealing with organised crime it is essential to think internationally too. And in doing that we need, and wish, to work closely with the EU and other Member States.

It is an irony that I need to hurry back to London from here to vote – yet again – for the European Union (Amendment) Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The key argument about that, however, is not the minutiae of European institutions, but the way in which we can use European cooperation to really impact on our crime fighting efforts. I would like to mention some areas where we believe that the EU has added real value.

The European Arrest Warrant has proved itself to be an efficient and effective mechanism for returning those seeking to evade justice by going abroad. Extradition times have been reduced by months, if not years, and the UK can point to examples of the successful execution of European Arrest Warrants bringing fugitives back to the UK or returning them to the country in which they are wanted. We regard it as a real success.

We are hopeful that when the European Evidence Warrant is adopted comparable benefits will accrue in speeding up the provision of evidence.

Europol [and we have just heard from its Director, Max-Peter Ratzel] is a key EU organisation in the fight against serious and organised crime. Its importance to us derives from its ability to facilitate information exchange, its analytical support capability and its role in supporting Member State law enforcement authorities in their fight against cross border crime. The United Kingdom is strongly committed to Europol, whose assistance has been invaluable in a number of successful police investigations in the UK involving gangs operating across the European Union. It also produces the EU Organised Crime Threat Assessment which we regard as an essential underpinning document – you need to have a knowledge of what your problems are before you can make sensible decisions about tackling them.

A good example of an operation which we undertook with Europol involved an armed and violent gang committing twenty armed robberies against jewellers in the UK. They had also committed 200 similar crimes across the EU. As a result of that co-operation prosecutions have been brought in eleven cases.

Eurojust too provides an important mechanism for facilitating information exchange and co-ordinating investigations and prosecutions between EU Member States. In 2007 the UK sought assistance through Eurojust in more cases than any other Member State and received the second most number of requests for assistance.

In one operation Eurojust co-ordinated actions across five countries, including the UK, leading to the arrest of 82 people for human trafficking offences. The benefits are clear.

The EU is also taking forward a number of initiatives to improve data sharing including, for example, speeding up the process for law enforcement authorities to check unidentified fingerprint or DNA data against records held in other Member States. The ability to share information between Member States and with Third Countries for the purpose of tackling organised crime is essential. We need to be sure we do not unwittingly limit our ability to do so.

As well as these formal EU mechanisms there are other means by which Member States can pull together to tackle problems of joint interest. An example which the UK is glad to be involved in, and whose first Director is from the UK, is the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre (Narcotics).

The Centre, based in Lisbon combines the efforts of seven Member States. Intelligence is shared between the participating countries and each state makes available interdiction assets for co-ordinated operational action. The results of the collaboration have been very successful with many tonnes of cocaine which was being shipped to Europe being stopped. It is a good example of how well planned and executed cooperative exercises can bring real added value. Beyond the EU

Collaborative working within the EU is obviously important but the fact of the matter is that many of our organised crime problems have their origins beyond the EU’s borders.

There is a need to work closely with those countries which affect us at governmental and law enforcement agency levels.

The UK has a number of countries which it regards as priorities and works closely with. That work ranges across a wide number of fronts – securing the commitment of the politicians, providing training and other assistance to law enforcement authorities, and mounting joint operations with them.

SOCA for its part has 140 liaison officers in some 40 priority countries around the world forging close and effective relationships with the authorities of the host nations. This is an approach which the Government very much supports. It is not enough to counter problems as they reach our shores – they need to be tackled close to source as well.

I welcome the partnership brought together by this conference and the ambition it represents. And I wish you luck – not just in your discussions over the coming days, but in building stronger alliances, better understanding and more effective action. Whether it is the scourge of modern day slavery through trafficking, the lives wasted and ruined through illegal drug use or the tragedies caused by guns in the wrong hands, the thread of serious and organised crime runs throughout. It is only through ensuring that our law provides the best tools, our law enforcement organisations are at their most effective and our partnerships are strong that we can meet the threat and tackle the impact on our communities.

Good luck with that task.