Belfast Telegraph

Chief Constable has 'legal power to spend budget on hiring temporary civilian staff'

Chief Constable Matt Baggott does have legal power to spend his budget on hiring temporary civilian staff, the High Court heard today.

A judge was also told how a blueprint for reforming policing in Northern Ireland envisaged former officers potentially providing services on a management buyout basis.

The PSNI is facing a challenge to its plan to bring in outside staff on a contract worth up to £180 million.

Public sector union NIPSA claims the deal with Resource NI for the provision of support workers is unlawful.

But senior counsel for the police today argued that the case has now shifted to an acceptance of aspects of the contract.

Tony McGleenan QC also set out how sweeping changes to policing in Northern Ireland drawn up by the Patten Commission had dealt heavily with civilianisation of the force.

Although not every recommendation was implemented in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, the court heard how it intended that services such as transport, IT and communications should be contracted out.

Mr McGleenan said the plan included ex-RUC men and women who left as part of the overhaul being able to contract for certain infrastructure work.

"Patten himself envisaged a management buyout by former police officers," the barrister contended.

NIPSA's challenge is being heard alongside a case taken by the mother of a loyalist murder victim seeking to stop former RUC men being rehired.

Vivienne McCord fears bringing ex-policemen back in to help with historical inquiries may thwart efforts to establish the full circumstances surrounding the killing.

Her 22-year-old son, Raymond McCord Jr, was beaten to death before his body was dumped in a quarry near north Belfast in 1997.

His murder was at the centre of a damning report by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan which established evidence that rogue Special Branch officers colluded with a north Belfast UVF gang responsible for up to 16 deaths.

Both NIPSA and Mrs McCord want the contract with Resource declared unlawful.

But Mr McGleenan argued that Patten intended for the Chief Constable to be the accounting officer with autonomy over how he spends his budget.

"The fundamental constraint is he must spend his budget for police purposes," he told the court.

"Provided he does spend it for police purposes he is doing nothing unlawful."

"What flows from that, and the drawing board of Patten, is that the Chief Constable is empowered to spend his resources for police purposes, including to contract out services."

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