Jon Boutcher appointed PSNI chief constable as Bobby Singleton loses out

Jon Boutcher has been appointed as Northern Ireland's new police chief constable.

Mr Boutcher previously headed up Bedfordshire police, and has led the PSNI on an interim basis since 12 October.

The top job was vacated after former chief constable Simon Byrne stood down in September, following a series of controversies.

Interviews for the £220,000-a-year role took place at the Policing Board on Monday, before the appointment was confirmed by the secretary of state.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton was the only other person in the running.

The Policing Board interviewed the two shortlisted candidates at the board’s headquarters in Belfast, before a multi-stage deliberation and selection process. In normal circumstances, when a devolved government is in place in Northern Ireland, the board’s selection would be sent to Stormont’s justice minister for final approval. With no justice minister in place due to the ongoing powersharing impasse, Mr Heaton-Harris had responsibility for signing off on the appointment. He had no influence on the choice but had to be satisfied that the process was fair and done in accordance with rules and guidelines.

The interview panel was made up of Policing Board chairwoman Deirdre Toner, independent board member Mukesh Sharma and three political members of the oversight body: Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly, the DUP’s Joanne Bunting and Nuala McAllister from the Alliance Party. Mr Boutcher previously applied to become PSNI chief constable in 2019, but lost out to Mr Byrne.

In a statement the Policing Board said:

"The Northern Ireland Policing Board has confirmed the appointment of Jon Boutcher QPM as the next Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) following receipt of approval by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the appointment, Board Chair Deirdre Toner said: “I am pleased to confirm that Jon Boutcher QPM is the successful candidate from this appointment competition. "Jon takes on the leadership role for one of the most important public sector services in Northern Ireland. He is clearly committed to the challenges ahead, to tackling crime and criminality and to providing a policing service that is community based and focused on delivery to the public. "There are also significant pieces of work to be progressed to manage and mitigate the serious financial pressures currently facing policing, and deal with confidence and other issues arising from recent events. "As a Board we look forward to working with him as Chief Constable in dealing with the challenges faced.” "This leadership position carries extensive responsibilities, and the appointment necessarily comprised a rigorous selection process. Based on the key principles of merit, fairness, openness and transparency, independent scrutiny was incorporated at all stages of the process to provide added probity and assurance. "The recommendation of the appointment panel was unanimously ratified by the Board at a special meeting and was subject to approval by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

In a statement the chair of the Police Federation, Liam Kelly urged the newly appointed Chief Constable to set as his top priority the need for direct and urgent Government intervention to tackle ‘chronic and deep-rooted’ issues holding back the Service. Mr Kelly congratulated Jon Boutcher on his selection to lead the PSNI for the next five years and said he would have the full support of the Federation for a campaign to get Minsters to realise what is urgently required. Mr Kelly said: “I have met Mr Boutcher in his capacity as the interim Chief Constable and look forward to continuing to have a productive and positive engagement. We must collaborate across a number of areas but most of all, our officers want to know their Chief Constable has their back. “The list of what must be fixed is long and can only be addressed by a meaningful and realistic funding package from Government. Taken together, the Service will need a commitment to invest up to £500 million. “There’s a worrying funding gap coupled with the cost of the data breach and officer holiday pay which account for most of what’s required. There’s no recruitment and serving officers are leaving because of the pressures they endure in doing their job. If the Government doesn’t step in to deal with chronic and deep-rooted challenges, we will see officer numbers shrink to 6,000 and that is unsafe and unsound. “Mr Boutcher knows what has to be done to restore balance. Getting Ministers to realise and then fix the parlous state of the PSNI is the main priority. That will require intensive lobbying at Whitehall as NIO Ministers don’t seem to care and have turned a deaf ear to policing requirements. “Internally, it will be important to re-build confidence and morale. Disciplinary processes are in need of reform with far too many officers waiting an inordinate length of time for cases to be resolved. “None of this will come as a surprise to Mr Boutcher as we’ve already made our views known to him. Our new Chief Constable has a difficult and demanding in-tray, but he will have our support as he sets out his plans to right a badly listing organisation.”

In a social media post, Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill said: "Wishing Jon Boucher well on his appointment as new Chief Constable. "Huge job of work ahead to rebuild trust and confidence in the police with public, and PSNI officers. "Focus must be on delivering an efficient and effective policing service that works and is representative of everyone in society."

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP has said the appointment of a new permanent Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) should be the catalyst for restoring confidence in policing throughout Northern Ireland. Commenting, Sir Jeffrey said: ‘‘I congratulate Jon Boutcher on his appointment to the substantive role of Chief Constable and wish him every success moving forward. "I also express my sincere gratitude to ACC Bobby Singleton for putting his name forward for consideration and wish him continued success with his career in Policing. He has much still to contribute. "There is a need for effective, efficient, and impartial policing in Northern Ireland. The recent ruling by Mr Justice Schofield laid bare that political considerations were influencing operational decisions.

"This has cemented longstanding concerns around two-tier policing. Such stumbling blocks to policing confidence must be removed. "The Democratic Unionist Party will be engaging with the new Chief Constable to hear his plans to restore confidence and improve relations with the Unionist community.

"This appointment must not be a false dawn. It should be a catalyst for delivering a Police Service that treats every tradition and community with a fair hand and avoids many of the own goals we have seen in recent times.

UUP policing board representative Mike Nesbitt welcomed Mr Boutcher’s appointment. Mr Nesbitt said: “I want to congratulate Jon Boutcher on his appointment. He has shown a strong start as the interim Chief Constable, improving officer and staff morale and promptly dealing with a number of challenging issues. “I feel we will see more of the same under his leadership and look forward to working with him through my position on the Policing Board.”

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