DAME LYNNE Owens has announced her intention to retire from her position as director general of the National Crime Agency after 32 years of service to the world of law enforcement. Owens has led the NCA since January 2016 following a career that spanned three police forces, starting in 1989 on joining the Metropolitan Police Service as a constable. Prior to joining the NCA, Owens served as chief constable of Surrey Police.
Owens was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and has been receiving treatment for the condition.
Commenting on her retirement, Owens said: “It has been an absolute privilege to protect the public for the last 32 years. Following the treatment I’ve received for breast cancer, the prognosis remains entirely positive and I’ve recovered well from the initial surgery. However, the results indicate – and the medical team advises – that I now require more extensive surgery (ie a mastectomy).
While back at work, I’m mindful that I’ve recently been away from the NCA for almost four weeks, while the next stage [of treatment] will require a more extended period of absence.”
Owens continued: “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’s in the interests of the NCA to leave it with such uncertainty in leadership. Similarly, I recognise that I need to create the time and space to heal physically and emotionally without the self-imposed pressure to return. I don’t feel that my working life is over, though, and I very much hope to contribute again in the future.”
Further, Owens noted: “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’s less visible to the public eye. We’ve 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’m so proud of them and all that they do.
I also remain grateful to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, namely Matthew Rycroft, for their care and compassion through this time.”
During her time leading the Agency, Owens has overseen considerable change, driving the NCA’s growth in size, stature and capability which has enabled the organisation to carry out some of the most impactful operations against serious and organised crime ever witnessed on home shores.
Dedication and energy
Speaking about Owens’ decision, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of Lynne’s decision to step down as director general of the National Crime Agency. I know this feeling will be shared by colleagues across Government and law enforcement who, nonetheless, will understand her decision and wish her well.”
Patel added: “Lynne has led the NCA with dedication and energy for over five years to keep the people of the UK safe from the threat of serious and organised crime. During her time as director general, Lynne has modernised its approach to tackling the threat and worked ever more closely with law enforcement and other partners to achieve some stunning successes against criminals. I should like to offer my personal thanks for her integrity, leadership and an unswerving commitment to public service.”
Matthew Rycroft explained: “I’ve worked with Lynne on a daily basis. She is passionately committed to the fight against organised crime. I know that she has not taken the decision to step down lightly, but she has decided that it’s in the best interests of the NCA for her to do so.”
Further, Rycroft said: “This is characteristic of her integrity and sense of duty. I will miss her straightforward approach and expert advice, reflecting her very considerable experience over 30 years in the law enforcement sector, including as chief constable of Surrey Police. All of us will miss Lynne and wish her well for her surgery.”
Increase in disruptions
In the last financial year (2020-2021), the NCA has enjoyed its most successful 12 months to date, achieving an almost 40% increase in disruptions compared to the previous year. That’s set against the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This has enabled the NCA to protect the most vulnerable in society and enshrined its place at the heart of the UK’s world class law enforcement system as an integral member of the national security architecture.
Recognised as an inspirational figure, Owens has made a significantly positive impact on law enforcement, demonstrating exemplary leadership of an operational agency and the wider system that safeguards children, removes firearms and drugs from UK streets, disrupts cyber crime and criminal finance and is at the forefront of innovative law enforcement techniques. Owens was made a Dame in Her Majesty The Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021.
The Home Secretary will take the necessary steps to appoint an interim director general as soon as possible. That individual will lead the NCA while a substantive successor to Owens is appointed in the wake of a competitive recruitment process.