Cybercrime picked as key focus for new National Crime Agency chief

Written by Tevye Markson and Sam Trendall on 19 August 2022 in News
News

Graeme Biggar has finally been confirmed as the head of the national body after a rerun of the procurement process

Credit: Pixabay

Home secretary Priti Patel has appointed the next chief of the National Crime Agency after re-running the recruitment process.

Graeme Biggar, who was already interim director general of the NCA, will take on the five-year role and is set to receive a salary of £223,000. A key focus of his role over the coming years will be tackling cybercrime, according to the Home Office.

The cyber capabilities of the national law-enforcement body have grown in recent years – as have the number of officers dedicated to digital crime in forces across the country.

But recently released annual statistics showed that – from the 28,886 cyber offences and 4,335 police investigations recorded in the 2021/22 year – there were just 97 cases that resulted in a formal charge or summons. 

Biggar’s appointment also comes in the week that the Estonian government revealed that, in an incursion attributed to a pro-Kremlin hacking group linked to numerous attacks in recent months, the country’s state institutions and businesses had been targeted by the most serious cyberattack the nation had faced in 15 years.

During his time as interim director general, the new chief has driven the UK’s crackdowns on kleptocracy, illicit finance and child sexual abuse, the Home Office said. In addition to cyber offences, his focus will also be on bringing down organised crime groups who peddle drugs and illegal firearms and exploit vulnerable people, the department added.


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Biggar, who has led the agency since October, was chosen despite reports that No.10 had asked for the process to be restarted because Boris Johnson wanted former Met Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe to get the job.

“I am delighted to have been asked to lead the National Crime Agency,” Biggar said. “It has been a privilege to lead our officers over the past ten months. I will continue to support them in protecting the public while ensuring we operate with the highest integrity and standards,” he added.

Announcing the hire, Patel praised Biggar’s achievements as interim chief. 

“From dismantling people smuggling networks through to the biggest illegal migration law enforcement operation across Europe to bringing the monsters who sexually abuse children in the UK and abroad to justice, Graeme and his remarkable NCA team have an outstanding track record of delivery,” the home secretary said. “The UK’s NCA is world leading and in a formidable position to tackle some of the most complex global threats we face and to help make our streets and our country safer.”

The initial recruitment process was launched in December after Dame Lynne Owens announced she would step down as NCA chief after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Biggar and Neil Basu – the former head of UK counter-terrorism policing – were selected by the interview panel as the preferred candidates for the role. But Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told the duo in May they would not be chosen and the process would be repeated, according to reports.

Basu, who would have become the first person of Asian heritage to lead a UK law enforcement organisation, said at the time he was “disappointed” in the decision and would not apply again.

Hogan-Howe, a vocal supporter of Johnson, also reportedly ruled himself out after critics raised concerns of cronyism and his record as Met Police commissioner.  

The Home Office said Biggar was chosen "after a fair and open recruitment process".

Before becoming interim chief of the NCA, Biggar was director general of National Economic Crime Centre from 2019 and 2021. He has also served as director for national security at the Home Office and chief of staff to the defence secretary.

Biggar helped to shape the response to the 2017 terrorist attacks and the Salisbury poisoning attack. As director of national security at the Home Office, he oversaw the implementation of the Investigatory Powers Act, known as the Snoopers’ Charter.

Under the powers of that law, the department is now engaged in a implementing a national service through which it will be able to search and access data from internet service providers on citizens’ internet connection records: which includes information on sites accessed and apps accessed.

The NCA, a non-ministerial department with around 5,500 officers based in the UK and abroad, is independent from the Home Office but accountable to the home secretary.

 

About the author

Tevye Markson is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @TevyeMarkson.

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