National Crime Agency inspections

Part of: International and specialist agencies

The NCA is a crime-fighting agency with national and international reach. It has the mandate and powers to work in partnership with other law enforcement organisations to bring the full weight of the law to bear in cutting serious and organised crime. It builds on the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and incorporates some of the functions of the National Policing Improvement Agency which fit the NCA’s crime-fighting remit.

Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, HMIC was responsible for inspecting the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) periodically. On 7 October 2013, SOCA was abolished, and new arrangements, under the Crime and Courts Act 2013, require HMIC to inspect its replacement, the NCA. The Secretary of State can also request that we inspect the NCA in respect of a particular matter.

Find out more about the NCA

Please note: In July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). Inspections carried out before July 2017 may continue to refer to HMIC.


HMICFRS provide the Home Secretary with a report following each NCA inspection.

Under Schedule 6, Part 1, paragraph 3(1) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013:

“[t]he Secretary of State must arrange for every HMIC[FRS] report received to be published in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”.

This may require the redaction of operationally sensitive information. This section features the reports that are published.

SOCA reports

In general, SOCA reports were not published due to their sensitivity. Where reports were published, the link to the document is included below.

2018 – Anti Kidnap and Extortion Unit inspection

Terms of reference

This inspection examines the Anti Kidnap and Extortion Unit (AKEU) within the National Crime Agency. The terms of reference for this inspection in 2018 seek to establish:

  1. What is the role of the AKEU in responding to kidnap and extortion within the UK?
  2. What is the role of the AKEU in supporting the response to kidnap and extortion in other countries where there is UK responsibility?
  3. Does the AKEU have an effective and efficient structure to be able to lead, support or coordinate the response to kidnap and extortion?

2017/18 Warrants inspection

In 2015, the NCA conducted a comprehensive review of its warrants and production orders granted by the courts in live NCA cases. Following the completion of the review in March 2016, and independent oversight provided by an Independent Advisory Panel, the Director General of the NCA requested that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate undertook a joint inspection to ensure that the promised improvements have taken effect.

Terms of reference

  • The inspection should seek to provide assurance of the level of improvements within the following areas:
    • search warrants, whether granted by a Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court, together with the information in support;
    • records of the authorisations given for s18 PACE searches; and
    • PACE and POCA production orders, and account monitoring orders, together with the information in support and applications.
  • Ensure progress has been made by the NCA to address thematic issues that were identified during the warrants review, namely:
    • PACE Warrants:
      • Precision of drafting;
      • Failure to specify the lack of antecedents;
      • Insufficient time estimates;
      • Consistency of information across warrants and applications;
      • Detailing the reliability and sensitivity of information contained within warrants; and
      • S18 search authorisations.
    • POCA Orders:
      • Application of the correct conditions contained in the Statute;
      • Assertions (explanation for the assertions);
      • Period of time over which material is sought;
      • Disclosure;
      • Inconsistencies in drafting; and
      • Reducing copying and pasting details from previous applications.
  • Consider the governance and continued oversight provided by operational standards, capability and assessment unit. This will focus on the role of the unit to maintain operational standards in respect of warrants and the programme of work to deliver the recommendations outlined in the final report of the warrants review.

2017 inspection

This inspection examines the national tasking and coordination arrangements led by the NCA. The terms of reference for this inspection of the National Crime Agency in 2017 are:

  1. How effective are the processes for establishing a “single authoritative intelligence picture” on which national tasking is based?
  2. Are the current strategic, tactical and operational tasking processes led by the NCA ensuring that activity is focused on national priorities?
  3. How are the NCA, police forces across the UK and other law enforcement agencies responding to the national priorities?
  4. How are the strategic governance groups led by the NCA, their related threat groups, and strategic action plans informing and influencing national tasking?

2016 inspection

December 2017 – National Crime Agency inspection: an inspection of the National Crime Agency’s specialist operations centre, crime operational support and serious crime analysis section

The terms of reference for these inspections of the National Crime Agency in 2016 are:

  1. How effective are the services provided by the serious crime analysis section, crime operation support and the specialist operations centre?
  2. How efficiently are these services provided?

2015 inspection

July 2016 – National Crime Agency – a progress report

July 2016 – An inspection of the UK’s International Crime Bureau

July 2015 – Inspection of the National Crime Agency – Terms of reference

2014 inspection

March 2015 – An inspection of the National Crime Agency

July 2014 – Inspection of the National Crime Agency – Terms of reference

Inspection of SOCA

June 2013 – European Arrest Warrants – An inspection of the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s data, systems and processes for dealing with European arrest warrants