Northern Ireland

New PSNI chief constable to be appointed

Steve Martin, Mark Hamilton, Jon Boutcher and Simon Byrne
Image caption PSNI officers Mark Hamilton (below left) and Steve Martin (below right) are up against GB policemen Jon Boutcher (top left) and Simon Byrne (top right)

The new chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is expected to be named later.

Interviews were held on Thursday and Friday, with four men in the running for the £207,000-a-year job.

Two PSNI officers - Steve Martin and Mark Hamilton - are up against GB policemen Jon Boutcher and Simon Byrne.

The new chief constable will take up his position after George Hamilton retires next month.

Mr Hamilton's successor is being chosen by a panel of seven Policing Board members, but only four of the five main parties are represented.

The SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly withdrew for personal reasons.

IRA agent inquiry

A special meeting of the board has been called for 17:00 BST on Friday.

An announcement is due on Friday evening after Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley approves the appointment in the absence of a justice minister at Stormont.

Independent recruitment specialists have been hired to oversee the process.

A senior occupational psychologist will "dip sample" notes taken by selection panel members and ask them to justify the marks they allocate to shortlisted candidates.

Mr Martin and Mr Hamilton hold the posts of deputy chief constable and assistant chief constable respectively.

Until last year, Mr Byrne was chief constable of Cheshire Police, while Mr Boutcher is the head of Bedfordshire Police.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption George Hamilton, the current chief constable, retires next month

For the past three years, Mr Boutcher has also been running a major inquiry into the historical activities of the Army agent within the IRA known as Stakeknife.

New oversight arrangements have been built into the recruitment process after claims that Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald had compromised the competition.

In February, she voiced opposition to the chief constable being replaced from within the PSNI.

The board took legal advice on keeping MLAs on the interview panel and its solution was to hire a firm of external advisors to monitor scoring.

It is understood that Mrs Kelly withdrew from the process at an earlier stage.

As the only SDLP MLA on the board, she could not be replaced by anyone else from the party.

A Policing Board spokesperson said: "The withdrawal has no impact as the panel remains representative.

"It will now comprise the following members: Anne Connolly, John Blair, Alan Chambers, Linda Dillon, Colm McKenna, Wendy Osborne and Mervyn Storey."

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