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Matt Baggott appointed new Northern Ireland police chief

By Emily Moutlon

Matt Baggott, head of the Leicestershire Constabulary, was last night unveiled as Northern Ireland’s new chief constable.

The 50-year-old married father-of three, who is a strong advocate of community-style policing, had been the firm favourite to take over from Sir Hugh Orde who leaves the top job at the end of this month.

Last night Mr Baggott, who is also the president of the Christian Police Association and worked with former RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan on the recent National Review of Policing in the UK, said he was thrilled he had been given the job and that he was looking forward to building on his predecessor’s legacy.

He also said he was looking forward to bringing his knowledge of community policing to the province.

“It is a privilege to accept this position and to be appointed head of the PSNI at this time and I am very grateful for this opportunity,” he said.

“Policing with the community is a major part of the Patten Report recommendation and I am looking forward to helping move it on in the next part of the journey.

He added: “It's going to be a huge privilege and I'm going to work with an incredibly effective team and obviously build on Sir Hugh Orde's legacy.

“I am looking forward to bringing my expertise on neighbourhood policing and policing with the community with the PSNI.”

Earlier this year Mr Baggott, who is originally from south London, narrowly missed out on becoming head of the West Midlands Police.

But last night he emerged the victor after beating off tough competition from fellow candidates Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Durham police chief Jon Stoddart and head of West Mercia police Paul West.

His appointment to the top job was a unanimous decision.

It was also historic. It was the first time Sinn Fein has been involved in the selection of a police chief for Northern Ireland. MLA Alex Maskey sat on the interview panel.

Policing Board chairman Barry Gilligan said Mr Baggott impressed all seven panel members and had all the right credentials for the job.

“If someone gets the unanimous support of seven, it’s fair to say he has done something right,” he said last night. “He scored in every area that we challenged him on. I think I should also place on record that we had three other very good candidates here and I spoke with each of them and they were all disappointed but each said we have made a good choice.”

Highlighting that community policing was one of the issues that the board placed a priority on, Mr Gilligan said Mr Baggott would also have to deal with a few other issues when he takes up the new post, such as resourcing, which “is not going to go away”, he added.

Sinn Fein policing spokesman Alex Maskey said he was looking forward to working with the new chief constable.

“We are looking at a great opportunity for continuing the process of change here,” he said.

“There remain many challenges out there that the police service and the wider community still face and I look forward to the new top team at the PSNI working with the Policing Board, working with the wider communities and rising to the challenges that remain with us as a community and as a society that have been with us the last number of years.”

The DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr also welcomed Mr Baggott’s appointment saying the choice was a “crucial decision” for policing in Northern Ireland and praised Mr Baggott’s track record.

“He was a star member and a leading team member of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry team. That significant calibre of a gentleman to come into policing in Northern Ireland and to recognise he wants to give that wealth and talent to people here.

“You don’t select Superman for the chief constable — you select someone who can play a credible part and lead a team of officers.”

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said he was delighted that the board had reached a unanimous agreement on the appointment of Mr Baggott.

“I am happy to approve the appointment. It is extremely important to note the decision, the first appointment of a chief constable by a full representative Policing Board, was unanimous; and I have no doubt that having the full support of the board will give the new chief constable a strong platform from which to build on Sir Hugh’s success.”

Devout Christian and a career policeman

Who is Matt Baggott? Lesley-Anne Henry profiles the PSNI’s new Chief Constable

Northern Ireland’s new Chief Constable Matt Baggott has been described as a safe pair of hands for the PSNI.

The former Leicestershire Constabulary chief is a devout Christian committed to the community-style policing favoured by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

The 50-year-old married father of three narrowly missed out on becoming head of the West Midlands Police earlier this year, having got down to the final two.

He spent the first 20 years of his service in the Metropolitan Police leading policy reviews on issues such as partnership, regeneration and inner city crime.

For 18 months he was staff officer to the then commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, and headed the Metropolitan Police team assisting the Stephen Lawrence Public Inquiry.

In 1998 he became assistant chief constable in the West Midlands with specific responsibility for policing diversity, crime and disorder, professional standards and criminal justice.

He joined Leicestershire Constabulary on promotion to Chief Constable in December 2002.

Mr Baggot was Vice President of the Association of Chief Police Officers 2004-07, is a member of the National Policing Board and advises the Government on a range of issues from partnership through to social cohesion.

He has also worked with former PSNI Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan on the National Review of Policing.

During his time in Leicester he worked closely with the large Muslim community and has been praised for publishing his expenses online.

For the most part he has managed to avoid controversy, but in 2006 was forced to apologise for his officers’ behaviour when a whistleblower revealed to Channel 4’s Dispatches team that officers had watched porn films while on duty, played hide and seek in their cars and fetched takeaways while pretending to be busy.

At the time he said: “I apologise for the poor behaviour shown in the documentary. And we will accept criticism wherever it is justified.”

Mr Baggott was awarded a CBE in the 2008 New Years Honours, received the Queen's Police Medal in June 2004, was elected a Fellow of University College London in 2006, and awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by De Montfort University, Leicester, in July 2007.

He is also president of the Christian Police Association, and vice president of the National Association of Police Chaplains.

Commentators in Leicestershire expressed surprise when he threw his hat in the ring for the PSNI job.

It was thought he had hoped to return to a top position within the Metropolitan police.

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