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In a bid to crack down further on organised crime in Britain, Home Secretary Theresa May has launched new legislation, in the second reading of the Serious Crime Bill at the House of Commons. 

The Serious Crime Bill, which has already been agreed, affords new powers to seize assets and money from criminal gangs. Effectively, it offers more enforceable options to the National Crime Agency (NCA), the government’s flagship development in the overhaul of the criminal justice system’s response to serious and organised crime. 

Broadly speaking, the new legislation places emphasis and affords new powers to tackle drug cutting agents, computer misuse, protection of children from sexual abuse and female genital mutilation (FGM). 

These latest amendments to the Bill will certainly resonate directly with the general public. After all, most people will know of someone who has had their credit card details fraudulently used online, a pensioner who was subject to a scam, or a family or business that has been burgled. Not as many of us will know someone who has suffered from sexual abuse or genital mutilation, but we’ll all be aware of the devastation such heinous crimes create. 

There are reportedly over 5,500 organised criminal groups in the UK, with 36,000 people engaged in organised criminal activity. This will almost certainly come as less of a shock to the professionals we recruit than the general public. It is, however, alarming and new measures do need to be introduced. After all, according to Theresa May, organised crime costs the UK at least £24 billion each year, with organised fraud thought to cost us around £9 billion. 

The Bill recognises not just the financial cost to society, but the inhumane repercussions of organised crime. Perhaps the most significant milestone of the Bill is the raft of measures to address female genital mutilation. To give victims the confidence to report the crime against them, the Bill provides lifelong anonymity from the point at which an allegation is made. It also makes it an offence to fail to protect a girl from the risk of FGM. Essentially, the new powers are modelled on the forced marriage protective orders, which are in addition to those announced back in July 2014. 

The Bill also makes it a criminal offence to possess a so-called “paedophile manual”; written documentation on how to sexually abuse a child. This has been heralded as a major step forward in plugging the gaps in child protection legislation. It finally sees the government dealing with child pornography which is written; something the government has been attempting to legislate on since 2003. 

These legislative changes are without doubt required. Whether they go far enough to tackle the severity of organised criminal activity in the UK is yet to be seen. Let’s not forget that criminal activity changes all the time and there needs to be enough legislative scope to account for this. 

We are also still seeing a significant number of sexual offences and rapes failing to reach conviction. There’s also still a long way to go in controlling the amount of drugs and ‘legal highs’ entering the UK, and as Labour have pointed out, online crime is escalating at an alarming rate and evolving all the time. 

There’s also a significant amount of pressure from Labour regarding FGM. Keith Vaz, Labour Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, reportedly insists the Bill should make it a criminal offence to fail to report FGM. He referred to the fact that France has gone down this route. Essentially, in France, those in frontline medical services who encounter FGM first, are legally required to report the crime. 

Of course, it is to be expected, that Labour will challenge various aspects of the Bill. After all, most of the measures brought in to tackle serious and organised crime have happened under Tory leadership. Although broadly speaking, amendments to the Serious Crime Bill have been welcomed by the majority of party members, with a resounding commitment to tackling organised crime head on. 

We also welcome changes that will hopefully build upon the NCA’s reported success to date. 

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