Belfast Telegraph

PSNI students in exam cheating scandal restart training

By Deborah McAleese

A group of shamed student PSNI officers who were stopped from graduating amid an exam cheating scandal have restarted their police training.

Eighteen students who had completed their training when they were caught cheating have now rejoined week three of the Student Officer Training Programme.

Another squad of officers caught up in the cheating furore, which has caused major embarrassment for the PSNI, are due to restart training from week one on July 4.

More than 50 student officers were told they were to be back-squadded as punishment earlier this month 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 two weeks ago.

A complaint of bullying against the whistleblower has since been made to bosses within the training college, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.

Chief Constable George Hamilton was last week 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.

"There was a lot of anger within the Policing Board that this had been kept so quiet. There was a feeling that the Chief Constable had been too lenient. This has caused massive damage to public confidence. If a constable is starting out his or her career dishonestly, how can they be deemed trustworthy by the public," a police source said.

Another added: "There was a level of organisation to the cheating that should have been taken more seriously by the top team."

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 is a recognised partner institution of Ulster University and has formal processes and policies in place, aligned with Ulster University practice, to deal with allegations of cheating." She continued: "Our responsibility is to ensure that the PSNI has followed agreed policy and process for dealing with allegations of cheating."

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