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Former NCA Director General hints at future policing return

The NCA’s former Director General hasn’t ruled out a return to policing – and warned Whitehall cuts could destabilise crime fighting.

One of the contenders tipped for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has signalled she may consider it in future.

Former Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA), Dame Lynne Owens, revealed she had come close to applying for the top job in UK policing but stopped for multiple reasons.

She also told Policing TV the botched appointment process for her successor at the agency was causing uncertainty.

Dame Lynne stood down from the agency last year to undergo cancer treatment and has gone on to make a full recovery.

Following the resignation of Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick in February, she was quickly tipped to be the front runner.

But shortly before the closing date, the former Surrey Chief Constable, shared on social media she had decided not to apply.

In her interview with Policing TV, she revealed just how close she came.

“It was definitely the hardest career decision about 'what am I going to do with my career' I've ever made, and I definitely wouldn't say never. So I don't rule out I'd apply at some point in the future,” she said.

Although not revealing exact details, she again made clear she had not made the decision on health grounds, as some had speculated.

She said: “It was a complex decision. I'd written the CV, I'd written the supporting statement, I'd done all the paperwork - which is normally the other way around, people normally do that last. So I think I could have made a strong pitch for the job but I decided not to.” 

"It’ll be for other people to decide whether I'm the right fit for any particular job at any particular time, but I definitely don't see myself as done,” she added. 

She also raised concern over the Prime Minister’s plan to axe 91,000 civil service jobs.

It has already begun with a freeze on the fast stream graduate new entrants scheme.

Home Office officials work closely with the agency and NCA officers are contracted as civil servants. This means their pay is lower than officers serving with UK forces and the agency has faced challenges in recruiting and retaining people as a result.

Ms Owens warned cuts at the NCA could have a “devastating” impact on tackling serious and organised crime.

“When I started in the Agency, the budget was about £400 million. I think it was £711 million in the last year I was there. And rumour has it, that it's just knocking on £800 million this year. So we did take some big steps towards achieving that.

“I've got I've got a keen eye on the current discussion that is going on in government about civil service cuts, and how that might impact on the Agency because it would be devastating if that took the Agency backwards.”

The process to find a successor has been re-opened after both the final candidates – the former national counter-terrorism lead AC Neil Basu and interim boss Graeme Biggar - were rejected by the Prime Minister.

That uncertainty has continued with confirmation today that AC Basu is still being found a role by the Met after finishing his secondment to the College of Policing.

Although she did not name anyone directly, Ms Owens said the continued delays would damage the Agency.

"I am sad. I'm sad for the Agency. Graeme Biggar has been, is, has been, still is doing a really good job as the temporary Director General. But being temporary is really hard.

“I've done temporary jobs at different times. And you're constantly trying to work through, you know, if I make this decision, is it going to bind the permanent person into something that they can't turn back from? So it works for, sort of, three to six months, but beyond that, I think it's hard, so I sincerely hope it can be resolved sooner rather than later." 

Dame Lynne said she would now consider other law enforcement roles.

She said: “So I'm 53. I finished working in the National Crime Agency 18 months, 12 months earlier than I probably would have intended to, so I think I've got more to give, more to give in public service, more to give elsewhere.”

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