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Another 24 trainee police officers caught cheating in Northern Ireland

By Deborah McAleese

Published 06/09/2016

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The number of trainee police officers caught up in the exam cheating scandal has risen to almost 80, it can be revealed.

More than 20 of the shamed students have since graduated from the PSNI training college, the Policing Board has been informed.

Recruitment has been suspended until at least December to allow for an independent review of the examination process and the culture within the policing college at Garnerville.

Police bosses initially believed that 54 student officers had cheated in their police examinations by sharing questions ahead of assessment. They were all ordered to restart training as punishment.

However, Chief Constable George Hamilton has now told the Policing Board that a total of 78 student officers have been "disciplined for involvement in impropriety at the Police College".

He said that of these officers "22 have now graduated and 56 remain in training".

"Any student officer who participated in capturing examination questions or had access to this material has received a written warning," Mr Hamilton continued.

It is understood that some of those caught up in the cheating scandal had graduated before their level of involvement was uncovered. The scandal caused massive embarrassment to the PSNI. Some Policing Board members also accused the Chief Constable of being "too lenient" on the students.

"Anyone caught cheating should have been sacked straight away. I know some would say that would be too harsh, but the whole thing has been very damaging to public confidence in the police," said Policing Board member Ross Hussey.

"The Chief Constable has overall authority for the discipline of officers and we have to give him that authority. That doesn't mean we have to be happy with the decision. My own view is that they should have been dismissed. The public need to know these officers received a suitable reprimand.

"I welcome the review that the Chief Constable has ordered and look forward to the findings," the UUP MLA added.

Last week Mr Hamilton told a public meeting of the Policing Board he acknowledged that there was a practice within the Police College earlier this year "that gave us some cause for concern".

He said that some students "went a step too far" when they attempted to memorise exam questions so they could share them with colleagues who had to resit the tests.

"Some would say that was good team work. That to me doesn't hold any water," Mr Hamilton added.

He said a five-week review was being carried out by the head of police training in Scotland and that the report would be presented to the board by the end of the month. The PSNI training which the students were caught cheating in is accredited by the Ulster University, which means student officers are both students of the Police College and the UU.

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