Former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has defended a confidential clause within his PSNI contract that allowed his family free UK flights at a cost of almost £30,000.
In a private letter to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Sir Hugh said the deal was “fair, reasonable and comparable in terms of contracts for Chief Constables generally”.
The deal — which permitted two return business-class flights per month from London to Belfast for Sir Hugh’s wife and son — was only to last for the first year of his contract while his family settled in Northern Ireland. But an “oversight” by the Policing Board saw the practice continue until 2007, when it should have been reviewed in September 2003.
In his letter to the board Sir Hugh said the arrangement “took account of the well understood complexities involved in undertaking the role of Chief Constable of Northern Ireland”.
He said the only people who made use of the facility were his then wife and his son.
He added that when he moved from the flat above his office at PSNI HQ into a house owned by the Policing Board, the facility continued.
The Policing Board said an “oversight” on its behalf meant the benefit was allowed to continue without review.
When the oversight was discovered in 2007 retrospective ap
proval was granted for claims from September 2003-2004, when Sir Hugh was provided with permanent accommodation in Northern Ireland.
It was agreed that flights claimed for from October 2004 to April 2007 would be reimbursed by Sir Hugh and the Policing Board. The amount reimbursed was £11,346.
Board member Jimmy Spratt criticised the organisation for failing to review the arrangement after the contracted 12 months.
“This involved taxpayers’ money. We are not just talking about an oversight of one or two months, we are talking about four years. Something like this cannot be allowed to happen again,” the DUP man said.
In his letter, Sir Hugh said the arrangements were “supportive, balanced and without question properly negotiated on behalf of the Northern Ireland Policing Board by people who, in my judgment, are of the highest integrity.”