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Policing Board left red-faced after bid to find new boss collapses as a result of approach made to Justice Minister

By Deborah McAleese

Published 07/11/2015

Chief Constable George Hamilton speaks during a meeting of the Policing Board earlier this year
Chief Constable George Hamilton speaks during a meeting of the Policing Board earlier this year

Recruitment for a new head of the Northern Ireland Policing Board has collapsed as a result of an approach made to the Justice Minister by members of the board during the process.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned that three members of the Policing Body who were involved in the interviewing process for a new chief executive approached David Ford to discuss matters that the minister considered internal to the board.

When the Policing Board's legal team became aware of the approach, the board was advised that the current recruitment process must be declared "null and void".

A new recruitment campaign will now have to be launched.

The Department of Justice last night said that the minister made it clear to the three individuals that the matters brought to his attention were internal matters for the board.

A spokesman insisted that at no point did the minister become involved or seek to influence the decision-making process.

The revelations have sparked serious concern about how the board handles the recruitment process.

It is understood that following a number of interviews for the post, two top candidates were being considered for recall for second interviews.

However, the process collapsed before this stage.

"Three panel members approached the justice minister to discuss the process. The board then received very clear legal advice that because the approach had been made to the minister the process was now null and void," a source said.

A spokeswoman for the Policing Board said: "The recruitment was declared to be null and void and a further competition will be required."

She added that she was not in a position to add any further comment.

The Department of Justice said: "The Policing Board, as a body independent of the Department, has responsibility for the recruitment of a chief executive.

"While the Justice Minister agreed to a request for an urgent meeting on October 12 with three MLAs who are members of the Policing Board, the Minister made clear that the matters they brought to his attention were internal matters for the board and should be addressed as such.

"At no point did the Minister become involved or seek to in any way influence the decision-making process which rightly rests with the board."

The Policing Board advertised in September for a new chief executive, with a salary of up to £78,000, following the retirement of Sam Pollock after three years in the post.

The interim chief executive is Barney McGahan.

The chief executive is the head of the Policing Board's staff and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the organisation.

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