Three-quarters of candidates withdrew from recruitment process after PSNI data breach

A majority of applicants withdrew from a recruitment campaign for civil detention officers in the PSNI as a result of major data breach in August, a Westminster committee has been told.

A senior PSNI official said this demonstrated the public's thinking of a job with the police service.

The Northern Ireland Affairs committee met on Tuesday.

It was also told how 200 employees within the organisation have sought ill-health retirement in 2023, a 100% increase on normal.

An "extraordinary" number of officers have also applied to be relocated to Australia.

Officers confidence in the intelligence system has also been shaken after the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was "not picked up", the chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland has said.

Liam Kelly said the PSNI data breach - which saw 9,500 employees' details end up in the hands of dissident republicans - will have a “massive detrimental impact” on future recruitment to the force.

Warren Scott, PSNI departmental assistant secretary at the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, demonstrated that this is already beginning to show.

He said 75% of candidates for a role in the force withdrew from a recent competition for civilian detention officers due to the breach.

He also said some officers have concerns around intelligence gathering and their safety.

Witnesses were also asked about the impact of the breach on serving officers.

Mr Kelly drew attention to the “hidden aspect” highlighting waiting times for occupational and mental health support.

He noted the "exponential rise" in the number of officers citing the data breach as "the final straw" for them in relation to staying in service or applying for ill-health retirement.

The PSNI is supposed to have around 7,000 officers, by March 2024 it will be down to almost 6,000.

Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally President at Police Superintendents' Association of Northern Ireland added: "When a football team is down to 10 men, you defend not attack, so how can we be proactive and make the changes without a full force?"

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