Jon Boutcher 'very honoured' to become chief constable of 'exceptional' PSNI

Jon Boutcher has said he's "very honoured" to have been appointed as Northern Ireland's new chief constable.

The former head of Bedfordshire Police, who had been serving as PSNI interim chief following the departure of Simon Byrne, was confirmed in the role on Tuesday evening.

In a statement, Mr Boutcher said: "This position carries great responsibility and is a huge privilege.

"I look forward to leading the dedicated officers of this exceptional organisation.

"There is much to do and I am fully committed to delivering an outstanding policing service to address the issues which matter most to our communities.

"The officers and staff of the Police Service do an extraordinary job and will have my full support."

Jon Boutcher's appointment was approved by Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris following interviews of the final two candidates on Monday.

Assistant chief constable Bobby Singleton was also shortlisted for the job vacated by Simon Byrne, who resigned in September after a string of controversies.

Mr Boutcher, who has 35 years' experience in policing, had been the PSNI interim chief pending the outcome of the interviews for the permanent £220,000-a-year post.

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 power-sharing 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.

He was until recently leading Operation Kenova, which has been investigating the activities of "Stakeknife", the Army's top agent in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The new PSNI chief faces a challenging in-tray, including a budget crisis, dealing with the fall out following a significant data breach in which the personal details of all officers and staff were mistakenly published online, and a critical High Court ruling that said two junior officers had been unlawfully disciplined for their actions at a Troubles commemoration event.

Speaking about the appointment, Board chair Deirdre Toner said: "I am pleased to confirm that Jon Boutcher 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."

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