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All out war on crime barons.

Byline: By David Barrett

A huge crackdown on organised crime gangs ( including a new supergrass system ( was being revealed by the Government today.

Criminals who turn Queen's Evidence could win immunity from prosecution, or have their sentence heavily reduced if they shop their criminal godfathers under a new Bill published today.

Earlier this year the Home Office said in drug trafficking cases, less than 1% of cases brought by Customs and Excise last year saw defendants turn Queen's Evidence, compared with 26% in similar cases in the USA.

Putting Queen's Evidence on a statutory basis could increase the figure and help cut the cost of organised crime to society, officials say. The new powers will feature in today's new Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, which will also create a British FBI.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) will have 5,000 investigators taken from existing law enforcement agencies.

Current powers held by the Serious Fraud Office which compel suspects to answer questions and produce documents will be extended to organised crime charges.

The ex-head of MI5, appointed to a key role in the new agency, will appear in his first Press conference on the issue today. Sir Stephen Lander is SOCA chairman ( the first time an ex-spymaster has played such a crucial role in British policing.

Home Secretary David Blunkett's Bill will also propose radical reform of police and court powers, expected to include:

Making all offences arrestable - subject to certain tests.

Extra powers for community support officers.

The ability to take fingerprints on the street rather than having to escort suspects to a police station.

Taking DNA samples or fingerprints covertly.

Extending the scope of search warrants so they apply to any premises occupied or accessed by a named person, with extended time limits.

The Bill will also create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred to protect faith groups. A previous attempt to introduce this new offence faltered in 2001.

SOCA chairman Sir Stephen is keen to see analysts trained by the security services working with police to target criminal Mr Bigs and their henchmen.

SOCA starts in April 2006, replacing the National Crime Squad, National Criminal Intelligence Service and investigation teams at Customs and Excise and the Immigration Service.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 24, 2004
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