Belfast Telegraph

PSNI paying nearly £500k to retrain recruits involved in cheating scandal

By Deborah McAleese

A group of shamed student PSNI officers who were stopped from graduating amid an exam cheating scandal have cost the force almost half a million pounds to retrain.

More than 50 student officers were told in June they were to be back-squadded as punishment after they were caught sharing and memorising exam questions ahead of assessment.

The scandal was uncovered following a complaint from a whistleblower just hours before a squad of student officers were due to graduate from the PSNI's training college at Garnerville.

Police statistics show that the cost for "re-coursing" the trainees - 42 men and 12 women - is £489,402, which includes salary and accreditation costs.

It is understood that the student officers will not have to pay any of these costs.

Following the revelations, Chief Constable George Hamilton was criticised by members of the Policing Board for his handling of the scandal. They claimed sanctions imposed by the PSNI were "inadequate".

Mr Hamilton insisted that he had acted in "good faith and with integrity" and that his actions "have been proportionate and appropriate in all the circumstances".

Some board members believed the cheating students should have been sacked on the spot.

"If there is evidence that someone has cheated then they should not be police officers," said Policing Board member Ross Hussey at the time.

The UUP man added: "You join the police to be a law abiding member of society with integrity. If you have cheated in your examinations to become a police officer then you should not progress."

Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly said members considered it "a very serious matter which has caused reputational damage to the PSNI."

Last month Mr Hamilton warned that he may have to freeze recruitment while a full review of the examination process is carried out. The PSNI training 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.

Although the university is very strict on cheating, disciplinary action in this case was left up to the PSNI.

A UU spokeswoman said: "We were made aware of the allegations when they first arose and we have been liaising with the PSNI on the matter."

The PSNI has been desperately trying to replenish officer numbers through recruitment campaigns.

At least 6,963 officers are needed, but currently there are only 6,881.

Belfast Telegraph


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