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The police governing body in Northern Ireland has given the go-ahead for the appointment of the next chief constable for the region. The final approval now rests with the Government.
The position of top job in the Police Service of Northern Ireland is being contested by Interim Chief Constable Jon Boutcher and current Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton.
The Northern Ireland Policing Board’s decision will only be considered official once it is approved by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.
Two individuals are competing to take over the position previously held by Simon Byrne, the former head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), who stepped down in September due to a series of controversial incidents.
Mr. Boutcher, who previously served as the police chief in Bedfordshire, has been selected as the temporary leader of the department while interviews are conducted for the permanent position with an annual salary of £220,000.
The Board of Police conducted interviews with the two final candidates at their headquarters in Belfast on Monday. This was followed by a thorough deliberation and selection process involving multiple stages.
Under typical conditions, if a decentralized government is established in Northern Ireland, the board’s choice would be submitted to the justice minister at Stormont for ultimate authorization.
As there is no current justice minister due to the ongoing power struggle, Mr. Heaton-Harris is responsible for approving the appointment. He does not have any authority over the decision, but must ensure that the process was fair and followed the established rules and guidelines.
The panel conducting the interview included Deirdre Toner, the chairwoman of the Policing Board, independent board member Mukesh Sharma, and three political members of the oversight body: Gerry Kelly from Sinn Fein, Joanne Bunting from the DUP, and Nuala McAllister from the Alliance Party.
During the interviews, a consultant from HMIC was present to offer guidance.
Following the interviews, the panel gathered to make a decision.
A virtual conference of the entire board was subsequently held to officially approve the appointment.
A comprehensive document was created for Mr Heaton-Harris that detailed the selection process and the reasoning behind the decision.
The Secretary of State must consult with officials at the Department of Justice in Stormont before officially approving the board’s choice.
The official confirmation of the new chief constable’s identity may not be announced until Tuesday.
In 2019, Mr Boutcher submitted an application for the position of PSNI chief constable, but was not chosen and instead Mr Byrne was selected.
Until recently, he was in charge of Operation Kenova, a probe into the actions of “Stakeknife,” the British Army’s primary operative in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Mr Singleton has previously served in prominent positions within the PSNI, such as leading the Paramilitary Crime Task Force and later the Legacy Investigation Branch.