National Crime Agency fail crime prevention test?

National Crime Agency fail crime prevention test?



The National Crime Agency has occasionally been touted as the UK’s answer to the FBI. It has even been touted as this seriously on occasions. Their mission is “to lead the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime“. At which they are probably jolly good. Unfortunately, it seems that they may need a bit of help in fighting the less serious, and more disorganised, criminals.


What are you talking about?

This story in the Liverpool Echo.

It was about a car thief – Peter McHugh, was was sentenced to a ’12 week curfew’, presumably as part of a Community Order for going into a car and stealing the victim’s house keys, diary, wallet, driving licence, bank statement and various letters with his home address on.

Fortunately, it seems that the thief had no ambitions to kick on to burglary or identity theft as there seems to have been no attempt to use them for other nefarious purposes.

The sentence seems fair enough?
Yes. The Sentencing Guidelines for Theft don’t deal with theft from a car specifically (although look out for the new ones – due soon – complete with references to car theft).

But it’s probably somewhere between theft from a shop and theft from the person, and it’s in the lower category of both. This indicates that the starting point is a Community Order. Given Mr McHugh’s previous convictions (it’s not stated what they are, but we think similar) it can’t be say that this is in anyway out of kilter with what one would expect.

What’s this got to do with the NSA
Well. The victim of the theft was a Director of the NCA. And it seems that he did leave the car unlocked, which was seen by Mr McHugh who pounced.

It seems that the NCA stated that the fob was pressed so as to lock the door. Mr McHugh stated that it was unlocked.

It’s not clear whether this was subject to a Newton hearing, but it was noted that there was no indication that the car was broken into, so it may be that the magistrates accepted Mr McHugh’s version.

Whoops. That’s a bit embarrassing?
Yes, and some. And to make it worse, it seems that when the victim returned to the car it took him a couple of hours to notice that he had been the victim of a theft.

It should be said that there was nothing taken that related to the victims work, so no harm was caused in that area.

But, surely you should be allowed to leave your car unlocked without some scroat breaking in?
Of course. And nobody’s saying Mr McHugh’s not to blame.

But it’s relevant in a few ways. Firstly, the fact that a thief opens an unlocked door means less harm is caused, and it is not as planned, so that the offence is less serious.

Secondly, it is a good reminder to take care of your valuables. If one of the country’s top crime fighters can forget to lock the door (assuming that he did of course) then we all can.

And, let’s be honest, it does make for an amusing story.

Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. Croatia also has a lot of islands off its rocky shore, just like Scotland, but apart from that connection, I can’t quite work out why you link it with the latter to describe the sort of toe-rags who steal things from people’s cars (“But, surely you should be allowed to leave your car unlocked without some scroat breaking in?”). Perhaps out of prudishness (‘scrote’ being an abbreviation for a low-hanging part of the male anatomy)?!

  2. Whoops! Fair play … my apologies. My defence is that it was being typed on a phone. I’ll leave the typo to make sense of the comment.

  3. But most of all, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this with us! It brought a much needed smile to my face.

    It is a good example too of the use of a Newton hearing, and on the scant information available, seems the proper decision for the Bench to have taken.

    (In the interests of fairness, I should add that I am in no position whatsoever to criticise whichever of the 12 Directors of the NCA this involved, because I once went off and left the driver’s door of my car wide open in a Heathrow multistorey car park for a fortnight – and returned to find that nothing at all had gone missing.)