Northern Ireland

Former PSNI officer Will Kerr suspended amid investigation into allegations of sexual offences

Former senior PSNI officer Will Kerr has been suspended as police chief in Devon and Cornwall
Former senior PSNI officer Will Kerr has been suspended as police chief in Devon and Cornwall

 A former senior PSNI officer has been suspended after the Police Ombudsman launched a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual offences.

Will Kerr, the current chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, was suspended on Wednesday.

Mr Kerr, who joined the English police force in 2022, was suspended by Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.

 The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has confirmed it is also investigating the allegations.

Read More:Senior police officer Will Kerr settles alleged discrimination case

In a statement the Police Ombudsman's office said it has "commenced a criminal investigation into serious allegations of sexual offences against a former PSNI senior officer".

The ombudsman said she will also consider the circumstances under which the allegations were investigated by PSNI.

Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson

It is understood Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson was made aware of the allegations by the PSNI but the case was not officially referred to her by the force.   

She then launched the investigation using her own powers.

A spokeswoman for the Police Ombudsman said: "The office has been engaging with the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) on cross-jurisdictional issues in recent weeks, as well as with the office of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner.

"Details concerning the precise nature of the allegations and any early investigative actions remain confidential at this time."

The spokeswoman added the ombudsman's office "will be robust in following the evidence".

A statement issued by Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez confirmed Mr Kerr had been suspended "following allegations of misconduct".

"The commissioner has referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which has confirmed it will commence an investigation," the statement added.

A spokesman for the IOPC said: "Following assessment of a referral from the Police and Crime Commissioner, we have decided to investigate allegations of misconduct against" Mr Kerr.

Ian Drysdale, vice chair of the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA), said Mr Kerr has "yet to be interviewed".

He added that Mr Kerr "recognises and respects the fact that accountability and due process are vital to any investigation, regardless of rank or position".

A former assistant chief constable, he was a member of the RUC and PSNI for 27 years before joining the National Crime Agency on secondment in 2017.

He moved to Police Scotland in 2018, where he served as deputy chief constable, before joining Devon and Cornwall Police last year.

In 2015 he settled an alleged discrimination case against the Policing Board after he missed out on becoming deputy chief constable a year earlier.

He was awarded an OBE in 2015 and the King's Police Medal earlier this year.