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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Jonathan McCambridge

Policing Board will have to answer questions about PSNI controversies – Hoare

PA Wire

The Policing Board in Northern Ireland should be in no doubt that it will have to answer questions before MPs about controversies which have rocked the PSNI, the chairman of a Westminster committee has said.

Simon Hoare also described the job of PSNI chief constable as the “most difficult gig” in policing following the resignation of Simon Byrne.

Mr Byrne’s resignation was announced on Monday following a string of controversies, including a data breach which revealed personal details of officers and staff, and a critical High Court judgment which said the disciplining of two officers following an arrest at a Troubles memorial event in Belfast in 2021 was unlawful.

The committee is investigating the data breach, and representatives of the Policing Board, the oversight body for the PSNI, had been expected to appear before MPs on Tuesday.

However, the board withdrew from the hearing following Mr Byrne’s resignation of Mr Byrne.

A public session of the board scheduled for Thursday has also been cancelled.

SDLP MP Claire Hanna told the committee: “Could I put on record my concerns that the Policing Board aren’t here.

“I appreciate it is a choppy time, there is a lot going on, but my understanding is there hasn’t been a meeting in public since the data breach.

“The one that was scheduled for later this week isn’t occurring.

“I think it would have been useful and appropriate to have the Policing Board here as part of this session and as part of our scrutiny and as a part of people feeling that these issues are being properly scrutinised.”

The board should be in no doubt at all that they will appear before this committee to take our questions and will do so in public
— Simon Hoare, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman

Mr Hoare responded: “We will hear from them. Whether we have to use our right to summon witnesses, which we can, or whether they can find a time voluntarily to appear before us.

“But the board should be in no doubt at all that they will appear before this committee to take our questions and will do so in public.

“I was as disappointed as everybody that they felt unable to come today.

“I suppose the germane fact is the chief constable resigning yesterday obviously played a part, but we will hear from them.”

He added: “I wanted to put on record that anybody who steps up to the plate to be chief constable of the PSNI, it is probably the most difficult gig in policing.

“Anybody who does it deserves the recognition and thanks of this committee and the people of Northern Ireland for being prepared to step up and to try to police and to shape a modern police service to fit the current circumstances.”

Mr Byrne had faced a number of challenges in recent weeks, including the fallout from the major PSNI data breach, in which the names and details of all officers and staff members were mistakenly released online.

His troubles deepened last week when High Court judge Mr Justice Scoffield ruled that two junior officers were unlawfully disciplined for an arrest made at a Troubles commemoration event in 2021.

The judge said they had been disciplined to allay a threat that Sinn Fein could withdraw its support for policing. Sinn Fein has insisted there was no such threat.

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