The crisis within policing in Northern Ireland has deepened, with rank and file officers unanimously passing a vote of no confidence in Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.
Following a lengthy extraordinary meeting, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland also expressed no confidence in the PSNI’s chief operating officer, Pamela McCreedy, and assistant chief officer Clare Duffield.
Former chief constable Simon Byrne resigned this week after a string of controversies.
Pressure has been mounting on the leadership of the PSNI after a data breach which disclosed personal details of officers and staff, and a critical High Court judgment which said the disciplining of two officers following an arrest at a Troubles memorial event in Belfast in 2021 was unlawful.
Mr Hamilton had been steering the organisation while moves are under way to recruit a new chief.
He had been expected to attend the federation’s meeting on Wednesday but was unable to attend due to an unplanned medical procedure.
A PSNI spokesman said the senior executive team is currently leading the organisation while Mr Hamilton recovers.
Federation chairman Liam Kelly said: “We had a thorough and detailed discussion of all the issues relating to the judicial review ruling, the treatment of our two probationer officers and the monumental data breaches.
“Our federation is of the collective view that because of his (Mr Hamilton) involvement in the decisions concerning the Ormeau Road incident, and the real or perceived political interference in that process, we can have no confidence in him.
“Furthermore, in the wider context of the management, accountability and operation of the service, my federation colleagues said they had no confidence either in the chief operating officer Ms McCreedy, and the assistant chief officer Ms Duffield.”
Mr Kelly said the leadership team of the PSNI needed to urgently clarify whether it intended to appeal against the High Court ruling.
He added: “The service is in dire need of clear and strong leadership.
“We have to fix what’s fractured and change the entire way of working so that there isn’t a damaging and dangerous disconnect between the senior executive team and all officers.
“We do our level best, often going well beyond what’s expected, to deliver professional policing for this entire community. To continue on that path we must have a leadership that listens and acts on the genuine and constructive feedback from the rank and file.
“None of this is easy, but we feel we owe it to our members to express in the strongest possible terms the deep feelings of hurt, resentment and anger that exists.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had earlier said an interim leader needs to be “brought in” for the PSNI.
Speaking in the House of Commons, he said the DUP “fully supports” the PSNI in its “impartial implementation of policing across all communities in Northern Ireland”.
But he said: “We are in a crisis situation, with not only the data breach but also the loss of confidence internally within the PSNI.
“And whilst it is the responsibility of the policing board to make appointments, does he agree with me that perhaps what we need now, in the absence of a chief constable, is for someone to be brought in with the experience and leadership credentials that are needed in the interim period, pending the appointment of a new chief constable, to take control of this situation?”
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said in the Commons: “I do believe the senior management team is a strong and an effective unit and the policing board has a lot on their plate at this point in time and have even, I believe, launched a review into how they operate themselves.
“I’m quite sure questions are being asked to see what can be done in this space but, as of now, I can only update the House with what I have.”
In an earlier exchange between them, Sir Jeffrey said: “The data breach is a matter of national security because it includes officers who work with the security service in a very specialist role involving counter-terrorism and intelligence in Northern Ireland.
“So will the Secretary of State assure the House that whatever resources are required by the PSNI, not only to fulfil that function but to protect its own officers and staff, will be available to them?”
Mr Heaton-Harris added: “Some of the elements of that question are obviously in a place that I cannot answer in public, but any additional funding required by the PSNI would be submitted through an established process and currently we’re right at the very beginning of that established process.”
He said it “would not be right to pre-empt that but the Government is clear that security is paramount”.
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