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Stormont impasse means police not held to account, warns NI Policing Board chair

Anne Connolly, chair of the Policing Board has spoke of her concerns if the PSNI are not held to account. Picture by Hugh Russell
Suzanne McGonagle and Press Association

THE chair of Northern Ireland's Policing Board has spoken of her concerns about what could happen within the PSNI if it is not fully held to account.

The oversight body does not have legal authority to oversee the PSNI because of the political impasse at Stormont.

Anne Connolly said: "The longer this goes on the more likely the police are to get a bit carefree about the whole issue, they don't have a board to come to.

"Any organisation which is left without having to report openly and accountably to a board and the public, more and more people will start to do their own thing and that gets very difficult."

The Policing Board was a key plank in policing reforms arising out of the Good Friday Agreement.

Its main functions include overseeing the three-year policing plan as well as the approval of senior appointments.

However, decisions on recruitment for high-ranking posts, such as the head of resources which has been vacant for two years, are not being made, she said.

"If another post comes up in the near future we can't deal with that either," Ms Connolly told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme.

She said it was time for Secretary of State Karen Bradley to step in.

"The police have undergone major change in the last 16 years but the board has been allowed to remain the same.

"She (secretary of state) needs to look at a number of options. Someone needs to draw those up. It is not my responsibility to tell her what to do.

"What I am telling her to do is to get me a board, a properly constituted board so that we can get on with it."

However, former Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said Ms Connolly had "no authority to speak as chairperson of the board".

Her comments come amid a wrangle over what functions the Policing Board can carry out in the absence of political members who have not been appointed since the collapse of Stormont in January 2017.

Senior board members, including Ms Connolly, were given delegated authority to take decisions across a range of areas including ensuring police can continue to draw down funding and approving high-value compensation requests and PSNI secondments.

But Ms Kelly said she believed Ms Connolly had "over-stepped" her level of authority.

"I will be writing to the government auditor as I believe it's worrying she is being given access to people, such as the Secretary of State and being allowed to fly to the US, on behalf of the board.

"She has a very finite and constrained delegated authority, which in my opinion she has over-stepped."

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