New PSNI chief constable is named as Simon Byrne

Former chief constable of Cheshire Police takes up job when George Hamilton retires

  Simon Byrne who has been appointed the next chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Photograph: Cheshire Constabulary/PA

Simon Byrne who has been appointed the next chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Photograph: Cheshire Constabulary/PA

 

The new chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is Simon Byrne, the policing board has said.

On Friday evening the NI Policing Board - responsible for overseeing policing and holding the PSNI to account - revealed that the job previously held by George Hamilton, which attracts an annual salary of £207,489 plus benefits, is going to Mr Byrne, the former chief constable of Cheshire Police.

The announcement was made after approval by the Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

Interviews were held over two days with four men in the running for the top policing job in the North.

As well as Mr Byrne, the other external candidate was chief constable of Bedfordshire police Jon Boutcher.

Since 2016 Mr Boutcher has been leading the Operation Kenova investigation into the alleged activities of the British army’s most high-ranking agent in the IRA, code named Stakeknife.

Two internal candidates to make the shortlist of four were deputy chief constable Stephen Martin and assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton.

Mr Byrne began his career in the police when he joined the Metropolitan Police Service as a constable in 1982.

He transferred to Merseyside Police in 1985 and served as the commander of the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley between 2002 and 2004.

In 2006, he was promoted to assistant chief constable and having senior rank meant he joined the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Within Merseyside Police he served as Assistant Chief Constable Operations and Assistant Chief Constable Personnel.

In February 2009, he transferred to Greater Manchester Police, becoming Deputy Chief Constable.

In 2011, he returned to the Metropolitan Police Service as the Assistant Commissioner for Territorial Policing to 2014.

Cleared of misconduct

He was chief constable of Cheshire Police from 2014-2017.

In 2018, he was cleared of gross misconduct after a lengthy disciplinary investigation into allegations of bullying. He had been suspended from Cheshire Constabulary after being accused of bullying and humiliating staff between May 2014 and March 2017. A panel said the misconduct case, which cost £350,000 in public funds, “could and should have been avoided”. It found no allegations of gross misconduct or misconduct were proved.

The Policing Board members involved in making the decision on the appointment, which is expected to last for at least five years, were: chair Anne Connolly, Alliance Party MLA John Blair, UUP MLA Alan Chambers, Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon, Colm McKenna, Wendy Osborne and DUP MLA Mervyn Storey.

SDLP MLA Delores Kelly withdrew from the process at an early stage for personal reasons.

Back in February Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald faced criticism from George Hamilton after she said she could not think of any current PSNI officer who should replace him when he retired.

Amid claims Ms McDonald had compromised the competition new oversight arrangements were built into the recruitment process, including external advisers to monitor scoring.

Mr Hamilton will remain in the post of PSNI chief constable until his retirement at the end of June.

Challenges that lie ahead for his successor include the severe threat posed by dissident republicans budget restrictions, staff morale and the cases linked to the legacy of the conflict in the North.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) welcomed the appointment. Chairman Mark Lindsay, said Mr Byrne “will have to be across the range of issues that will fill his in-tray from day one”.

“Importantly this was unanimous appointment,” he said.

“The real work commences now as we seek to improve policing and tackle those issues which need addressed so our communities feel safe in their homes and proud of their police force.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said “action is required to rebuild and redevelop public confidence in policing”.

Ms O’Neill reiterated her party position that responsibility for dealing with legacy “should be removed from the PSNI and handed over to the new proposed independent legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House”.

She also said there was an onus on Mr Byrne “to ensure that significant failures of the PSNI to disclose information in a timely and acceptable manner to the courts and to families of victims of the conflict must end.

“There must be no more blocking or delays.”