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Thursday, 6 January 2011

The police and other criminal justice agencies

A number of organisations share responsibility for detecting and stopping crime, dealing with offenders, and overseeing the work of prisons.

The police service

There are 43 police forces in England and Wales. They are maintained by local police authorities, whose objectives are set in consultation with the chief constables and local community, while the government sets priorities for the police as a whole.

Each force is headed by a Chief Constable (in London, the Commissioner of the City of London Police, and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) appointed by their police authorities, with government approval. Independent inspectors of constabulary report on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces.

Scotland has eight 'territorial' police forces and the British Transport Police also operate there. Legal responsibility for policing is shared by police authorities or joint boards; chief constables; and Scottish ministers.

Northern Ireland is policed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) which replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 2001, following recommendations made by the Independent Commission on Policing.

For more details on the work of the police in the UK, follow the links below.

National crime bodies

A number of agencies work across national boundaries in the UK:

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

SOCA was formed with the merging of the National Crime Squad (NCS), National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), the part of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) dealing with drug trafficking and associated criminal finance, and a part of UK Immigration dealing with organised immigration crime (UKIS).

It is an intelligence-led agency with law enforcement powers responsibility for reducing the damage caused to people and communities by serious organised crime.

The Forensic Science Service

Providing scientific support to police forces, the service also operates the national DNA database in England and Wales, which is used to match DNA profiles taken from suspects to profiles from samples left at scenes of crime. A DNA sample can be taken from anyone arrested for a 'recordable offence' and detained in a police station. Recordable offences include all but the most trivial and traffic offences.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO)

The SFO investigates and prosecutes serious and complex fraud in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, employing teams of lawyers, accountants, police officers and other specialists to work together.

For more information on these agencies' work, follow the links below.

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Additional links

Local crime and justice

Find out what's being done about crime and anti-social behaviour where you live

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