Belfast Telegraph

It will be hard to fill gap if Orde runs into top Met job

By Brian Rowan

What if Sir Hugh Orde is successful in his bid to become the next Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police?

What will it mean here for the PSNI and the post of Chief Constable?

Sir Hugh’s deputy Paul Leighton ticks all the boxes and is eligible to apply.

His police career of close to 30 years stretches back to 1980 when he joined the RUC.

He has been to the FBI Academy, completed the Strategic Command Course at Bramshill, was an Assistant Chief Constable in Northumbria and has worked with Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.

Since March 2003 he has been Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI.

However, it is understood that his plan is to retire this year.

If he does, then that will almost certainly mean that the next Chief Constable will arrive from outside the PSNI.

There has been speculation that the recently retired Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan — who is just 48 — could make a quick return. But when you ask the question of him you get a clear answer — a No, and that is “a definite no”.

The now Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland considered all possibilities before leaving the police service last year.

He is now settling into a new career — policing and that 30 years of his working life are now behind him.

Policing Board member Ian Paisley jnr believes Sir Hugh will be successful in London, and that if Paul Leighton retires a “huge gap” will be left at the top of the police service here.

The Stormont MLA was sceptical when Sir Hugh was first appointed but has come to change his mind.

“He has turned out, in my view, to be an excellent police officer and leader,” the board member commented.

“He has inspired the leadership team and rank and file officers,” he continued.

“If he is successful (in London), and I think he will be, it will leave a huge gap at the top of the organisation to be selfish, I would like him to stay,” he added.

So, what if Sir Hugh gets the Commissioner’s job, and what if Paul Leighton retires?

Ian Paisley jnr is clear about the next steps.

“We will have to start a recruitment process that will be open to senior officers in the UK, but will not be open to our own senior team because of a regulation that says they must have two years experience in another service,” he said.

“That is a rule that we do not have to implement.

“We could decide to set it aside — allowing applications both from the rest of the UK and our senior team.

But that is entirely a matter for the Policing Board to consider, and I wouldn’t wish to pre-judge it or express an opinion about doing it or not,” he added.

So, the story is there is much to consider — much that depends on the London decision and on Paul Leighton’s future plans.

It could be all change or there could be no change.

We should know by the end of the month.

Belfast Telegraph

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