Public disciplinary hearings would expose officers to 'unacceptable risks', Policing Federation says

Stock shot PSNI police Northern Ireland officers on beat Belfast still image generic hold
The Policing Board review follows several controversies within the PSNI, including allegations of misogyny and misuse of social media by officers.

The body which represents police officers has said a recommendation for the PSNI to hold disciplinary hearings in public would expose officers to unacceptable risks.

A major Policing Board review has made a number of recommendations for improvements in PSNI professional standards.

It follows in the wake of several controversies within the service, including allegations of misogyny and misuse of social media by police officers.

Among them is a proposal to hold disciplinary hearings in public.

"Is the Policing Board really serious about holding hearings in public or just flying a kite?" Police Federation chair Liam Kelly said.

He said delays in disciplinary hearings can often result in careers being left on hold and reputations tarnished.

Mr Kelly continued: “There are some meaningful and sensible steps that could be taken to expedite hearings. However, the recommendation to ape what happens in England and Wales simply isn’t a runner.

"In fact, expecting officers to appear in public at their own disciplinary hearings would expose them to completely unacceptable risks."

He continued: “Only recently, we witnessed an attack on two young officers in Strabane and a further cowardly attempt on colleagues in Derry-Londonderry.

“There’s no mention of any safeguards to protect officer identities. What the Northern Ireland Policing Board must realise is that what applies in England and Wales is simply a non-starter anytime soon.

"As we approach 25 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, we are still a long way off being a peaceful society where police officers are not being targeted and intimidated by terrorists."

Mr Kelly conceded that the report does make other recommendations which deserve serious consideration.

He said: “As far as other recommendations go, the PFNI is willing to engage with the Policing Board and the PSNI to devise and implement steps that are progressive and are not fanciful.”

The Policing Board review made six recommendations to the operation of the current police misconduct system:

  • The board will continue to review the current code of ethics to identify potential improvements and modernisation.

  • The board should write to invite the Department of Justice to review the current misconduct regulations in order to identify improvements in the use of existing legislation provision which would enable cases to be progressed expeditiously.

  • The board should write to the Department of Justice, to invite them to consider what more can be done to address delay in the criminal justice system.

  • Following a review of PSNI professional standards department, the force should report to the board on the outcome of the review.

  • The PSNI should review and update its policies in relation to whistleblowing, vetting, sexual misconduct and abuse of position for sexual purposes.

  • The PSNI should ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are in place to communicate expected standards of behaviour for police staff and how behaviour falling short of that standard will be addressed.

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