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Policing Board employment case raises serious questions

The Policing Board of Northern Ireland is an important element of the oversight structures which hold the police to account and help to maintain public confidence in the PSNI.

The board has a range of statutory duties and responsibilities, including the appointment - or dismissal - of senior officers and civilian staff, monitoring the work of the PSNI and ensuring we have an effective and efficient police service.

This is a crucial role in a number of respects and as a public body it is also accountable for its own procedures and the allocation of public funds.

This week it emerged that the policing board was involved in industrial tribunal proceedings which resulted in an employee being awarded £86,000 for unfair dismissal.

What has raised eyebrows in relation to this case is the fact that, according to the tribunal judge, the policing board did not make any response to this claim, nor was the organisation represented at the hearing.

By any standards, this was an unusual approach by a public body with statutory responsibilities.

On Tuesday, when the Irish News asked why the board did not make representations, a spokesperson said: ''The Policing Board was not made aware of proceedings and will investigate the reason for this.''

The fact that an employer did not know they were facing a claim for unfair dismissal seems extraordinary and led former board member Dolores Kelly MLA to lodge a formal complaint with the Auditor General Kieran Donnelly.

However, yesterday the board admitted that it had received official correspondence on the case and 'an investigation is under way.'

Clearly, there are questions that need to be answered with regard to how this case has been handled.

The public is entitled to know why the board failed to make representations at proceedings which resulted in a finding of unfair dismissal and a substantial payout.

It appears that something has gone wrong and the board needs to provide a full explanation.

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