Ex-Midlands police chief has gangsters firmly in his sights

He leads the fight against serious crime across the UK and has big-time gangsters in his sights.

Keith Bristow, the newly appointed head of the UK’s National Crime Agency says his Black Country roots help him in his job
Keith Bristow, the head of the UK’s National Crime Agency

Wolverhampton-born Keith Bristow spent two years building Britain’s answer to the FBI before the 5,000-strong National Crime Agency was launched with him at its helm.

The 47-year-old former Midland chief constable is Director General of the new force and declared: “I have a fantastic job.”

“It is a privilege to lead the NCA and I want to make it as good as it can possibly be. I want it to have a real effect on organised crime.

“I have been given the mandate and the powers to bring the full weight of law enforcement on it and our aim is to relentlessly disrupt the dangerous, serious criminals who make money out of the misery of others.”

The organisation is a matrix of former crime-fighting agencies with a wide ranging brief that, in addition to organised crime, includes economic crime, border security, cyber crime and child exploitation.

Powers

Mr Bristow said: “I have the powers of a constable, an immigration officer and a custom officer but I am no longer a police officer.”

The agency started in October and has already launched several major operations, ranging from smashing drug-smuggling gangs to the football match-fixing probe that recently rocked the sport.

They also swooped to smash an alleged sham marriage racket in Wolverhampton, part of a wider probe which recently saw Indian Gurmail Joshan from New Street, West Bromwich, jailed for a year for arranging a same-sex wedding with a Slovakian man after his visa ran out.

The Director General spent many years working as a police officer in the West Midlands. He joined West Mercia police as a cadet and served in both uniform and as a detective before being promoted to Detective Superintendent in 1998.

He was seconded to the West Midlands Police Major Investigation Team, later transferring to the force permanently, where he served as operations manager and director of intelligence. Promoted to Chief Superintendent, he commanded an operational command unit in Birmingham. While he was seconded to the force’s operational support unit for the Euro soccer tournament in 1996, he was involved in the hunt for Horrett Campbell, the machete wielding maniac who attacked Lisa Potts and several of her pupils at St Luke’s School, Goldthorn Hill – the incident that won her the George Medal, the highest civilian bravery award.

Mr Bristow recalled: “I was among those searching the tower block where he was found hiding in a riser but was not the officer who found him.

“I organised the cordon to get him out of there to the van and also set up the security when he appeared in court.”

Mr Bristow became an Assistant Chief Constable in 2002 before becoming a director of the National Criminal Intelligence Service. In 2005 he was appointed Deputy Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police and became the force’s Chief Constable in July 2006. Then in October 2011 he won the job of Director General of the National Crime Agency, two years before it launched. He said: “There are three reasons why my career has been a success; opportunity, working for very good people and a bit of luck.” The father of three has come a long way from the Tettenhall flat he shared with his parents before moving to Bridgnorth at the age of seven, but never forgot his roots.

Proud

The former pupil of Claregate and Stowlawn junior schools, insisted: “I am very proud of my heritage and am delighted to regard myself as a Wulfrunian. I think people from the Black Country tend to be straight forward, no nonsense folk. That is a credo I am happy to live by because I think it is a fine way to deliver a public service.”

Mr Bristow attended St Mary’s Bluecoat School and Oldbury Wells Comprehensive in Bridgnorth before joining the West Mercia police force as a 17-year-old cadet. It is obvious that he does not relish talking about himself and is keen to keep personal details about his family to a minimum.

Mr Bristow added: “My family go back a long way in Wolverhampton. My great grandfather was a builder in the city.

“I still have relatives living there although I do not come back very often now. “My dad grew up in Wolverhampton and my mum was the daughter of an airman based at RAF Cosford. She lived in Albrighton.”

The National Crime Agency Director General remains a dedicated Wolves supporter. He said: “I still watch them whenever I can but nowadays that is not as often as I would like.”

Mr Bristow is based at the National Crime Agency HQ in Westminster, London and reports to the Home Secretary. He is in charge of deciding on the strategic direction of the NCA that also has five directors.