Northern Ireland news

New Chief Constable to be announced this week

(Left to right) Jon Boutcher, Stephen Martin, and Mark Hamilton are reported to be among candidates for the chief constable role 

A replacement for outgoing Chief Constable George Hamilton is expected to be announced this week after two days of interviews.

In what has been one of the most closely scrutinised public appointments in the PSNI's history, the panel will be deciding on a shortlist believed to be made up of two senior members of the force and two officers from England.

Among them is thought to be high profile Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher, currently heading up the operation Kenova investigation into the activities of the IRA agent known as Stakeknife.

Simon Byrne, former chief constable of Cheshire police, is also thought to be in the running for the £207,500 a year job.

Mr Byrne was cleared of all allegations of bullying in 2018 following a period of suspension, however, his contract with Cheshire police had ended by that stage.

Two serving PSNI officers, acting Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, are also said to be shortlisted.

A preference for applicants to have served outside Northern Ireland was dropped from the list of desirable criteria in the selection process to allow serving PSNI members to apply.

Independent recruitment specialists were brought in from outside of Northern Ireland to oversee the appointment process following controversial comments made by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald earlier this year.

Mrs McDonald was accused of undermining the integrity of the recruitment exercise when she said she did not have confidence in any prospective candidate from within the PSNI.

Her remarks in February prompted calls for the Sinn Féin representative to be excluded from the selection panel assembled by the Policing Board.

Those calls were resisted, with board members instead agreeing to introduce new quality assurance measures to safeguard the process.

Interviews will be carried out by political and independent members of the North’s 19-member Policing Board under its chairwoman Anne Connolly.

The Sinn Féin representative Linda Dillion, will be joined by John Blair of the Alliance Party, Ulster Unionist Alan Chambers, Dolores Kelly of the SDLP, and the DUP's Mervyn Storey.

All the panel have had to undergo a stringent two day training process to ensure the appointment will be robust enough to stand up to any potential challenge.

The announcement as to who will replace George Hamilton when he retires in June is expected to be made on Friday evening.

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