An Inspection of how the criminal justice system deals with business crime in Northern Ireland

Publication: 18/10/17
Business Crime
Inspectors call for further action to enhance police response to business crime

Inspectors have called for further work to be done by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to maximise existing partnerships with the business community and further enhance its response to business crime.

Speaking today (18 October 2017) following the publication of Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland's (CJI's) report on business crime, Deputy Chief Inspector James Corrigan said:"Business crime is often perceived by the public as a 'victimless' crime with little direct impact on people’s lives.
"This assumption can be misleading as business crime is committed against small independent local retailers and farm businesses as well as larger local, national and multi-national companies.  It ranges from shoplifting and theft of machinery and livestock, to criminal damage, robbery and cyber attacks.  When businesses are targeted, everyone becomes a victim as the impact can be felt through higher prices and lost employment opportunities," he said.
The inspection found that the PSNI had well established strategic relationships in place with the business community through the partnership formed to develop the Business Crime Action Plan, which included the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
"This Action Plan is a positive step and we welcome the work ongoing to address the actions identified within it," said Mr Corrigan.
However Inspectors found that, unlike in England and Wales, there was no agreed definition of business crime in place in Northern Ireland or way of accurately recording the level of business crime occurring, therefore it was difficult for the PSNI to establish a clear picture of the scale of the problem or to prioritise its resources appropriately in response to it.
Inspectors have recommended this is an area the PSNI should work to address with its partners from the business community.
The report identified that, at a local level, strong personal relationships had developed between crime prevention, neighbourhood policing officers and the business community.
"Inspectors heard of effective partnerships being forged, particularly in relation to city centre community safety and specific types of crime such as financial crime, intellectual property crime and armed robbery, but the PSNI needs to ensure these relationships are not dependent on the involvement of specific individuals," he said.
To mitigate this risk, Inspectors recommended that appropriate succession planning arrangements for key roles be put in place, so that long term engagement and contact with the business community was maintained when individual officers leave or move on to other posts in the PSNI.
The report also recommended that opportunities available to the police through partnership working with schemes such as Retailers against Crime and Belfast Retail Crime Watch should be better utilised.
"Schemes such as these provide excellent opportunities for the business community and police to share information and intelligence with each other around individuals involved in committing crime in retail premises," said Mr Corrigan.
"Inspectors however found the PSNI was not maximising the information sharing potential of these links.  As result, opportunities for police officers to detect and investigate criminality, target prolific and persistent offenders and even to assist with the location of missing persons, are potentially being lost.
"We have recommended the PSNI should, in the next six months, develop a process whereby officers working in all policing districts are able to fully utilise opportunities to detect and investigate crimes committed against retailers by using intelligence sharing schemes that are underpinned by sound data protection and governance procedures," he said.
Mr Corrigan also voiced his support for the collaborative approach adopted by the PSNI, An Garda Síochána and other law enforcement bodies aimed at tackling the significant cross-border element to business crime in many areas.  
In addition to the efforts of the police, the Deputy Chief Inspector said there was a clear requirement for businesses to play their part in tackling business crime.
"Businesses need to take steps to actively prevent crime from occurring, as well as reporting offences at the earliest opportunity, and supporting the police in their investigations and any subsequent prosecutions.
"There is an onus on businesses to implement crime prevention advice they receive and work alongside the police to send a clear message that business crime will not be tolerated and will be tackled robustly," he concluded.