Paramilitary Crime Task Force helping to reduce harm in communities

In November 2022, the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, supported by local police and criminal justice partners, carried out a significant operation into suspected paramilitary activity linked to the East Belfast UVF over a two-day period.


Eight firearms, a large quantity of assorted ammunition, three viable pipe bombs, balaclavas and UVF flags and emblems were seized along with two vehicles. Four men were arrested and have since been charged with a number of offences including possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possession of articles for use in terrorism. All four were also reported to the Public Prosecution Service for the offence of membership of a proscribed organisation.


Detective Inspector Maguire from PCTF said: “This was a significant operation which has resulted in a number of firearms being taken out of the community. Paramilitary gangs coerce and control communities, often through violent means. We are determined to work with communities to help keep them safe and end this harm.”


Paramilitary Crime Task Force 2022 Totals 


Detectives hand over cheque for more than £1,500 to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice

From left: Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Hill; Rodney McCurley, Northern Ireland Hospice Trustee; and Detective Chief Inspector Avine Kelly.

The Police Service have presented a cheque for over £1,500 to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice. The money was raised from the auctioning of vehicles, which were seized by officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF).

Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Hill, Head of Organised Crime Branch, said: “Paramilitaries make a living from crime, using a regime of fear and violence to exercise control over the most vulnerable in our society.

“We, along with our partner organisations, are committed to tackling such criminal activities, from money lending to drug dealing, and their harrowing effects. We had a heartening opportunity to turn something negative, in the form of assets linked with crime, into something really positive.”

Civil recovery powers used to disrupt criminals and give money back to communities

Programme investment has enabled the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF), a co-located Law Enforcement partnership incorporating Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to focus on paramilitary related criminality.


The creation of the PCTF in 2017 allows each partner agency to exercise their own bespoke powers, but it also allows them to work collectively, sharing capacity and capability to more effectively tackle the threats that come from paramilitary linked organised crime. One such power is the ability to recover assets which are the proceeds of crime through the NCA’s Civil Recovery & Tax (CRT) team. Billy Beattie from NCA explains more:


“CRT was introduced in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and offers us an alternative option to disrupt and deter criminals by targeting the proceeds of crime where a prosecution is not possible.


“The burden of proof is lower with civil recovery and if a judge rules against the subject, it not only takes away their wealth, assets and standing, it can significantly reduce their ability to operate. Importantly, it is not necessary to link assets to a specific crime; as long as it can be shown to have been acquired through, or in return for, unlawful conduct. Profits on criminal assets can also be recovered.


“We will use whatever powers are available to us to maximise disruption of these criminal gangs. CRT can be useful when it is not feasible to secure a criminal conviction. That means we can still pursue a criminal even if the criminality is overseas, the suspect is deceased or absconded, there is insufficient evidence to a criminal standard or the proceeds of crime cannot be linked to a specific offence. It can also be helpful where a conviction may be feasible but the use of civil recovery powers may better serve the public interest, or where a conviction has been obtained but a confiscation order was not made.


“Recovered assets are sold and the monies used to fund vital public services. It is important that the public sees Law Enforcement target and disrupt criminals who exploit vulnerable people and communities and CRT is another tool for us to use in achieving that.”