PFNI chair criticises secondment of deputy chief constable after vote of no confidence

The chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called for a “thorough examination” of the decision to approve the secondment of Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton who received a vote of no confidence last year.

Feb 15, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton

Liam Kelly said the decision of the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) to recommend the secondment reinforces the view among rank-and-file officers that senior officers are treated totally differently from their junior colleagues.

It is understood the secondment would see the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) deputy split his time between the Department of Justice and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Mr Kelly said: “The officers I represent are incensed over this decision. Following a successful Judicial Review, the Federation unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Deputy Chief Constable Hamilton and the former chief constable [Simon Byrne] over their handling of disciplinary issues around the Ormeau Road incident in 2021.

“In August 2023 a judge found against them and determined their actions to have been unlawful. Mr Byrne ultimately resigned and the newly-appointed chief constable [Jon Boutcher] publicly apologised to the junior officers

“However, there has been no follow-up investigation instigated whatsoever into what actually occurred and, therefore, no accountability for any of the decisions and punitive actions taken by both senior officers against their junior colleagues.”

Mr Kelly added: “The processes and system that seemingly allow such a two-tier approach to disciplinary matters must be challenged and ultimately overhauled.

“It has and continues to fail our rank-and-file officers who, it appears, are held to more stringent oversight and a much higher standard than their senior colleagues.

“If this recommendation is ratified by the Justice Minister, my members will be expecting a full explanation for this decision.”

Mr Kelly said the secondment request to the NIPB was “belatedly made” by the chief constable after both the Board and the Police Ombudsman’s Office clarified, following legal advice they had received, that there would be no criminal or misconduct investigation into the matter.

“I have explained to Mr Boutcher the internal damage to rebuilding trust and confidence between the ranks that news of this secondment will cause,” said Mr Kelly. “We have had members suspended and repositioned for years for matters that are seemingly not as serious or damaging to public confidence as this.

“There simply cannot be one rule for those at senior levels in the PSNI and another for the men and women I represent.”

A NIPB spokesperson said it has considered and approved a secondment for the deputy chief constable and approval is now with the Department of Justice for consideration.

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