Video: Seven held in prison drugs crackdown

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A WOMAN from Hull was among eight people arrested this morning as part of a crackdown on suspected identity fraudsters, under the first major operation led by the new National Crime Agency (NCA).

Dozens of NCA officers, supported by officers from a number of police forces, carried out raids at 10 locations across the country.

A drug detection dog searches a vehicle after an initial search found traces of drugs.

A drug detection dog searches a vehicle after an initial search found traces of drugs.

The arrests in Hull, Merseyside, London, Cheshire, Essex and Scotland included individuals suspected of fraudulently applying for genuine passports or driving licences using hijacked or stolen identities.

They were arrested on suspicion of fraud offences and are now being questioned.

Keith Bristow, NCA director general, said: “This operation demonstrates what the NCA is capable of right from day one - co-ordinating law enforcement and government agencies from across the country to focus on an issue that is a key enabler for organised crime.

“Fraudulently obtained identity documents are a valuable part of a criminal’s toolkit, allowing them to travel anonymously or obtain goods and services.”

Further arrests as part of this operation are planned in the coming days and weeks.

HM Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh said: “As this operation shows, anyone suspected of illegally obtaining passports will be tracked down and dealt with.”

The 36-year-old woman from Hull was arrested at an address in Victor Street.

Meanwhile, officers also arrested five people at HMP Lindholme in Doncaster today, as a result of a joint operation involving NCA officers, South Yorkshire Police and the prison service, aiming to disrupt the supply of contraband items being smuggled into the prison.

Four visitors to the prison were arrested for possession of drugs with the intent to supply and one was found to be in possession of an offensive weapon.

An additional 27 people were denied access to the prison after drug swabs of their vehicles tested positive.

Gordon Meldrum, NCA director of organised crime, said: “Organised criminals will often try to continue to ply their trade behind bars.

“That is why operations such as this are vital to protect both prisons and the communities they serve.”

Governor of HMP Lindholme, Mahala McGuffie, added: “This is an excellent example of how criminal justice agencies can work together to make prisons safer places for both prisoners and staff.”

Launched yesterday and with a budget of nearly half-a-billion pounds a year, the new NCA will lead the fight against the estimated 37,000 criminals involved in serious and organised crime in the UK.

More than 4,000 NCA officers will tackle organised crime, economic crime, border policing and child exploitation and online protection, alongside a National Cyber Crime Unit.

Mr Bristow said: “There will be no one beyond the reach of law enforcement or beyond the reach of the NCA.

“Those people involved in the most horrible activities can expect the most comprehensive and robust response.”

The launch of the NCA marks the end of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which is to be absorbed into the new organisation.

Proposals for the new agency were first unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May in July 2010.

But shadow policing minister David Hanson said the NCA was just the product of a “rebranding” exercise.

He said: “The National Crime Agency doesn’t match the Government’s hype.

“It is welcome that the NCA has finally arrived after three years of delay and we support strengthening work on organised crime and the hard work of Keith Bristow and his team.

“But most of the NCA is just the rebranding of existing organisations such as the Soca, but with a substantial 20 per cent cut imposed by the Home Office in their overall budget.”

The NCA will place investigators at ports to tackle border crime such as human trafficking and also have around 120 officers overseas in 40 different countries.