Lynne Owens to step down as head of UK National Crime Agency

After five years at the agency tackling organised crime, she is leaving to focus on treatment for breast cancer

The head of the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), sometimes described as Britain’s FBI, is stepping down to focus on her treatment for cancer.

Dame Lynne Owens announced her intention to retire as NCA director general on Friday, after 32 years of service to law enforcement.

The former chief constable of Surrey police, who has overseen considerable change at the NCA, which tackles organised crime gangs, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer and recently received treatment.

In a statement, she said: “Following the treatment I received for breast cancer in the summer, the prognosis remains entirely positive and I have recovered from the initial surgery well. However results indicate, and the medical team advise, that I now require more extensive surgery (a mastectomy).

“While back at work I am mindful that I have recently been away from the agency for almost four weeks, and the next stage will require a more extended period of absence.

“Throughout my service I have sought to focus on our responsibilities to the public and those I lead before myself and I cannot, with integrity, conclude that it is in the interests of the agency to leave it with such uncertainty in leadership.

“Similarly, I recognise I need to create the time and space to heal physically and emotionally without the self-imposed pressure to return. I do not feel that my working life is over and I hope to contribute again in the future.”

She has led the agency since January 2016 after a career that spanned three police forces, starting in 1989 when she joined the Metropolitan police as a constable.

In the last financial year, the NCA had an almost 40% increase in disruptions, which are when intentional activity leads to an organised crime gang (or individual) being unable to operate at its usual level of activity, compared with the previous year.

Owens was made a dame in the new year’s honours this year for service to law enforcement.

In her statement she said: “There is no doubt in my mind that the National Crime Agency will continue to go from strength to strength. Our outstanding officers work tirelessly to protect the public from serious and organised crime, sometimes in the shadows and with a contribution that is less visible to the public eye.

“We have worked hard to share some of our superb results and I know that the UK; its citizens, communities and businesses are safer as a result of their actions both here and abroad. I am so proud of them and all they do.”

An interim director general would be appointed by the home secretary as soon as possible, who would lead the agency while a substantive successor to Owens was appointed through a competitive recruitment process, the NCA said.

Contributor

Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Warwickshire police chief to head national crime agency

Keith Bristow gets job of masterminding fight against organised crime and boosting child protection online

Alan Travis, home affairs editor

10, Oct, 2011 @12:07 PM

Article image
UK’s organised crime threat at record level, warns National Crime Agency
Britain risks losing fight against organised crime unless police receive significant new resources, official warns

Mark Townsend

11, May, 2019 @11:01 PM

Article image
National Crime Agency appoints Lynne Owens as director general
Owens was favourite to get the post which will give her power to direct chief constables and commissioner of Metropolitan police

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

26, Nov, 2015 @2:31 PM

Article image
Beating terrorism means good local policing, not a National Crime Agency | Simon Jenkins
Simon Jenkins: First thoughts: Rather than the 'British FBI' and the US crashing about Somalia and Libya, it's police work on the ground that gets results

Simon Jenkins

07, Oct, 2013 @9:08 AM

National Crime Agency chief urges Theresa May to keep Britain in Europol

Keith Bristow, who leads the new £450m agency, faces his greatest political battle in persuading May to keep Britain in Europol

Sandra Laville, Crime correspondent

07, Oct, 2013 @12:24 PM

National Crime Agency will target organised criminals - video

The head of the new National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow, promotes its reach and effectiveness as the £450m agency is launched on Monday

07, Oct, 2013 @12:14 PM

Article image
National Crime Agency head will not have salary capped, says home secretary
Theresa May says applicants will not have to take pay cut for new job, previously planned to be capped at £140,000

Alan Travis, home affairs editor

08, Jun, 2011 @3:29 PM

Article image
Spend £2.7bn more to tackle organised crime, says NCA chief
Lynne Owens to make challenge to ministers during launch of strategic assessment

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

13, May, 2019 @11:01 PM

Article image
Senior MI5 chief in running to lead National Crime Agency
One of three candidates to lead Britain’s answer to the FBI is a top spy, reinforcing Scotland Yard’s fears it could be stripped of counter-terror brief

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

20, Oct, 2015 @4:51 PM

Article image
Internet firms are failing to tackle child abuse images, police chief says
National Crime Agency also reveals rise in sexual attacks on and interest in children

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

21, Jun, 2018 @3:25 PM