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Head of Police Scotland in frame for top PSNI job

Published 24/01/2014




THE high-profile head of Police Scotland could throw his hat in the ring for the job of PSNI chief constable, sources said last night.

A former chief constable of Strath-clyde Police, Sir Stephen House took over the more senior role when Scot-land's eight forces amalgamated in 2012.

Known as a tough on crime, no-non-sense type of officer, he was the former boss of PSNI assistant chief con-stable George Hamilton, who also spent a period with the Strathclyde force.

The two men, who have very different styles, could now be in a head-to-head battle for the most senior policing post in Northern Ireland.

Matt Baggott announced this week that he would be leaving in September when his five-year contract expires.

The news sparked speculation about who will take on what is considered one of the toughest jobs in policing, with a salary of just under £190,000 a year.

A highly decorated officer, Sir Stephen House joined Sussex Police in 1981 and has held a number of senior roles including deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

In 2005, he was awarded the Queen's Police Medal, in 2007 he took up a post as chief constable of Strathclyde Police and in October 2012, was appointed the first chief constable of Police Scotland.

He was knighted in the Queen's birthday honours last year in recognition of his services to law and order.

Considered something of a 'maverick', the Glasgow-born officer has been known to make solo arrests.

In October last year he pulled over a motorist he suspected of speeding on the M8 near Glasgow while he was travelling to a meeting on a police motorcycle.

At the time, Police Scotland said the chief constable "regularly undertakes journeys in uniform on a marked police motorbike".

It prompted policeman-turned-Labour politician Graeme Pearson to comment: "I would always expect a police officer to intervene when a crime is being committed or life is at risk, but if the chief constable has the time to stop speeding motorists instead of calling in road patrol, I think on his salary he would be better occupied dealing with the many strategic issues facing his staff and the public."

Having had to deal with sectarianism in Scottish football, sources say Mr House is well aware of the complexities of the political situation in Northern Ireland.

Currently, George Hamilton is the only serving member of the PSNI who meets the criteria for chief constable and is being tipped as the local favourite to take over from Matt Baggott.

Sources have named current assistant chief constable Will Kerr as the most likely candidate for deputy chief constable after the resignation of Judith Gillespie last month.

* HOUSE ARREST: Sir Stephen House, left, is believed to be the main challenger to George Hamilton, right, to succeed Matt Baggott as chief constable of the PSNI