Northern Ireland

Suspension of 16 civilian PSNI staff costs PSNI more than £500,000

The full-pay suspensions of civilian staff between April 2014 and September 2015 cost £519,623
Image caption The full-pay suspensions of civilian staff between April 2014 and September 2015 cost £519,623

The suspension on full pay of 16 civilian PSNI staff has cost the force more than £500,000.

Typically, civilian staff carry out roles that assist front line policing, but are not themselves PSNI officers.

Such staff are expected to follow the Civil Service Code of Ethics, and can be suspended while potential misconduct allegations are investigated.

The details of the suspension costs are contained in a Freedom of Information request, seen by the BBC.

It shows how the suspensions, which happened between April 2014 and September 2015, cost a total of £519,623.

That total includes salaries, national insurance and pension contributions.

A PSNI spokeswoman told the BBC: "Examples of issues where a member of staff may be suspended include alcohol and substance misuse, theft or fraud, assault or threatening behaviour, or misuse of computer systems."

'A neutral act'

She added: "Suspension, in itself, is not regarded as a disciplinary action and does not involve any prejudgement, or imply that any misconduct has taken place. It is regarded as a neutral act to enable an investigation of the allegation to be made."

UUP Policing Board member Ross Hussey described the cost as "quite a considerable amount of money".

"I would rather see that invested in policing, rather than having people sitting at home not actually doing anything," said Mr Hussey.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The document says a total of 51 ranked PSNI officers were also suspended on full pay

Ranked officers

The document also says that "at some point" within the same time frame, a total of 51 ranked PSNI officers were also suspended on full pay.

The most senior officer was a chief inspector, who remains suspended. Others included four inspectors, seven sergeants and 39 constables.

It does not detail how much those suspensions have cost the force.

In terms of the total bill, Mr Hussey estimated that it would be about £1,500,000.

Image caption Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton says suspension is a last resort and not an automatic position

"We can't have police officers suspended for in excess of six months or seven months a year. That just can't be the case and nor can we afford it any longer."

Assistant Chief Constable Martin Hamilton told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme the PSNI make every attempt to prioritise these cases.

He said the cost of suspending staff was so high because they received full pay, national insurance and pension contributions in their absence.

"There's a big emphasis on clearing these cases as quickly as possible, but there is also an emphasis on dealing with other crimes", he told the BBC.

He said, in many cases, staff were re-deployed and were only suspended where gross misconduct was suspected.