[JURIST] The United Kingdom launched [Home Office press release] its first non-police law enforcement agency Monday - the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) [official website; FAQ] - modeled after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] in the US. SOCA will have 5,000 employees on staff and its main goals are to tackle organized criminal gangs [JURIST report] such as drug traffickers, people-smugglers who exploit illegal immigrants, criminals involved in trafficking women from eastern Europe to serve as prostitutes, and world-wide pedophile rings.
The agency, created under the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act [text; JURIST report], has been granted new powers to facilitate its work including the use of phone tapping evidence, plea bargaining for witnesses, and an enhanced witness protection program. One of Britain's top police officers, Bill Hughes, was named [press release] as SOCA's director general who said that the agency's creation was necessary to "prevent organized criminals from causing harm and misery to our fellow citizens and to the UK in general." Reuters has more. BBC News has local coverage.