Why Sir Hugh's out of Orde-r
Published 21/02/2007 | 00:00
PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde can run - according to latest reports, half- marathons with his lover, instead of attending a memorial service for RUC officers - but he can't hide from the fall-out of his three-year affair with an English colleague, which has produced a 16-month-old son. Here, two writers explain why they believe a question mark hangs over Sir Hugh's personal and professional future
Running into a moral maze
Sir Hugh Orde has lived a prolonged lie, says Chris Ryder, undermining his authority and credibility. His behaviour also raises serious questions, such as whether or not the taxpayer had to pick up any of the bill for his unfaithfulness?
Quite surprisingly, the terms of the PSNI Code of Ethics do not explicitly outlaw the questionable conduct of Sir Hugh Orde, the chief constable, who admits he cheated on his wife and fathered an illegitimate child with a police colleague.
But although the code seems to provide him with some professional immunity for his adultery, is it really in the public interest that someone of his rank and position, with the public support of the Government and the police oversight community, should plead privacy and escape unscathed without apology, censure or sanction?
The answer must be a resounding no, not least because the wider public interest demands that he give a much fuller account of his infidelities so that we can be assured that he did not exploit taxpayers' money, nor compromise his office while betraying his wife and romping with another woman.
As the upholders of law and order, it has long been accepted that police officers, especially at the higher levels, have to conform to far more exacting standards of propriety than the rest of us, and accept far greater intrusion into their personal lives.
A police officer who commits even a minor traffic offence, for example, faces both the sanction of the courts and the considerable rigours of internal discipline. That double jeopardy, shared only with the armed forces, reflects our society's longstanding demand that the police be incorruptible.
So, in all but the most exceptional cases, a convicted officer goes on to face internal discipline, with the chief constable the ultimate arbiter of whether that officer is cautioned, reprimanded, fined up to 13 days pay, reduced in salary or rank, or is required to resign or be dismissed.
Is it not essential, therefore, that a chief constable, above all, should be whiter than white - for how can he dispense justice and command respect if his own integrity is not without flaw?
Now, there is no serious case for reimposing the exacting personal standards once demanded of members of the RUC, who were generally required to live in barracks, maintain an exceptionally sober lifestyle and could only marry an approved spouse. If such requirements were maintained today, there would be a steady trickle of officers out of the police. But, even in these more liberal times, where an ever more elastic morality prevails, Sir Hugh, despite the obligations of his lofty public office, clearly lived a prolonged lie in deceiving his wife of some 22 years as he conducted his affair.
Indeed, this is not the first time Sir Hugh's behaviour has raised doubts about his values.
On at least four occasions, he accepted corporate hospitality attending concerts at the Odyssey in Belfast, incautious conduct which would compromise his independence if ever his hosts were to come within the ambit of police interest.
Similarly, we now know that rather than attend the National Police Memorial Service in Belfast last year, he instead took part in a run in the north of England alongside his lover.
Such selfish insensitivity clearly enhances doubts about his commitment to his job and the community he serves. It also fuels doubts that he can continue in it, given that his authority and credibility has been so seriously undermined.
Deceit in one fundamental aspect of his life also inevitably raises doubts about his judgment and the consistency with which he applies basic values, such as honesty to others, especially where his considerable discretion and powers as a police officer and chief constable come into play.
His enduring amorous activities over several years also raise serious questions, which the Policing Board must ask, about the precision with which he conducted the financial aspects of his duties.
As a very senior public servant, Sir Hugh commands an annual salary of some £130,000 and considerable perks, including a subsidised house in stylish Crawfordsburn. He is also entitled to recompense for travel and other expenses incurred while performing his duties.
Can we be sure that all of the frequent trips he made back and forwards to London and indeed elsewhere, at public expense, were wholly and exclusively necessary and not manipulated to enable him to conduct regular assignations with his lover?
Were his hotel and entertainment expenses wholly legitimate - or did the taxpayer pick up any of the bill for his unfaithfulness?
His extra-marital trysts also raise questions about the responsibility with which he deployed his personal protection officers and other members of his staff. Were they put in the embarrassing position of having to cover for him and did they have to take him to places and hang around while he met his lover? Was overtime incurred by these officers as a result and paid from police funds? Were police vehicles always used for entirely legitimate purposes?
The PSNI website contains a commitment that the expenses reimbursed to chief officers 'will be proactively published and will be updated, as a minimum, every four months' but since the Freedom of Information Act came into force, over three years ago, not a single return has been published, never mind updated.
It would be a measure of remorse and some recognition of his duty of public accountability if Sir Hugh was promptly to ensure that details of his expenses, especially relating to the period two years ago when his lover was being impregnated, were posted for public scrutiny.
There are wider morality, integrity and security questions crying out to be considered. In this case, there do not appear to have been any security implications, but surely the Code of Ethics needs to be revisited to more specifically ensure that any officer who brings himself into such public disrepute can be dealt with more effectively than by becoming only the focus of a few ribald remarks among his staff?
Last week, a police officer who turned up late for work said he had been delayed buying a 'baby-gro' for the chief constable's love-child. As his Sergeant said ruefully: "There's no answer to that."
Hugh and cry
How can Kathleen Orde overlook her husband's love child - a constant reminder of infidelity, lies, cheating and a thousand little falsehoods? The answer, says Jane Hardy, is that she can't
Kathleen Orde, wife of Sir Hugh Orde or Sire Hugh as he's been dubbed in the cheekier sections of the Press, is probably even now humming to herself the Clash's catchy number, Should I Stay Or Should I Go? And the short answer is: Go.
It's bad enough to have an unfaithful husband, but to have an unfaithful husband who produces a baby ostensibly to please his younger girlfriend, so she doesn't miss out on family life (aah), is much worse.
It's the most humiliating thing possible - short of your husband running off with a man - and Sir Hugh isn't good looking enough for that.
Looked at cynically, there are wives who remain for the lifestyle. The magnificent Pauline Prescott springs well-coiffed to mind. She wouldn't run out on two - or is it three? - Jags, the chauffeur-driven escort at party conference time (famously extending to the few hundred yards dash from the Prescotts' hotel to Blackpool's Winter Gardens to preserve her hair), Dorneywood, the lackeys, the trappings of being married to the Deputy Prime Minister, would she?
That's a rhetorical question. It's especially rhetorical if the alternative is a return to anonymity in Hull.
But Kathleen Orde's lifestyle doesn't appear glitzy enough to be worth the trauma. And she has been, to boot, a jogging widow, waiting to hear of his impressive timings, presumably unaware of his agile sidekick.
I know a little of the emotions surrounding the Orde affair, as a close family member once found herself in a similar situation. Her husband, a freelance in his professional as well as his private life, produced an adventitious child, shortly after they'd bought a new house by the sea in an abortive attempt to save their marriage. Not only that, he told their children about his new daughter before his wife found out.
A nightmare scenario ensued, with the new partner writing pleading letters demanding a divorce (which were ignored), and the now separated husband trying at weekends to lead some sort of Mom's Apple Pie existence with his extended family.
It hurt his wife, badly, and it was only a desire to keep things amicable for their two youngish children that persuaded her to overlook, or at least tolerate, the episode.
But how can you overlook a constant reminder of infidelity, a reminder of lies, cheating and a thousand little falsehoods? Kathleen really shouldn't. In effect, Sir Hugh has practised a kind of bigamy, which isn't legal in these parts.
The Ordes' marriage is most likely a comfortable affair now, rather like an old Parker Knoll sofa you sit rather than make out on. But now the springs have come through the seating and she must decide if it's just too painful to stay.
Mrs Orde, can you really trust a man, the public face of the Police Service in Northern Ireland, known for his (supposed) probity, who has lied not once or twice, but innumerable times as he covered up a three-year parallel relationship? And whose body in bed next to yours has been a symbol of that fib?
Your husband's relationship with this 41-year old undercover policewoman was not in any sense a fling; it was a partnership in competition with yours.
Interestingly, the other woman already had a daughter, so this love child, to use the tabloid terminology, wasn't a last stab at motherhood, but a bid for a permanent memento of her lover.
Once the trust at that fundamental level goes, the edifice of 20-odd years of companionship, shared meals, holidays, Scrabble and childcare (the Ordes have a 21-year old son), starts to crumble.
Even Tory wives, the uber-faithful twinset and pearls brigade so betrayed during the Major years (not least by the PM himself) split in the end ... Mrs Mellor, Mrs Aitken ... everyone except Norma. The problem is, partly, that in our society we have sanctified the idea of a passionate-red-roses-and-negligee-romance via the institution of marriage, and it just doesn't work. Maybe we need a renewable marriage contract, to be re-negotiated every 10 years. After 20 or 30 years, a younger woman, or man, may seem too tempting to refuse.
But Sir Hugh should have just said no - and certainly refused to father a child, which represents a commitment to someone other than his wife.
So go, girl, go, and find yourself someone who will look you in the face, without trying to remember which house he's in.