30/05/2002

Met officer to face test of NI policing climate

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Hugh Orde has been appointed as the next Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The Policing Board concluded their round of final interviews on Wednesday afternoon, but the announcement of the appointment to the Province's £130,000-a-year top police job was delayed as the eight-strong panel deliberated their final decision.

The appointment, to what is widely recognised to be one of the toughest policing posts in Europe, has received the approval of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland John Reid.

Dr Reid said that he was "certain that the Board had found a more than able new Chief Constable in Mr Orde."

There has been unease in Unionist circles at the appointment, particularly as it transpired that the panel had been split over the appointment. Lord Kilclooney, John Taylor, said that the appointment was a "controversial decision" and that he was concerned that it would not be well received in Northern Ireland.

Fellow unionist Fred Cobain who was on the selection panel said that no one should have been appointed and claimed that an Inspectors of Constabularies advisor had said that none of the candidates was up to the job.

However, Chairman of the Policing Board Professor Desmond Rea said that the selection process had been rigorous with Mr Orde winning through in the overall score and not by a vote.

At a press conference held after the appointment was announced Mr Orde said the job was not for the "faint-hearted", and was one of the "ultimate challenges" in policing.

He said: "The Patten Report, the Police Ombudsman, the Policing Board, the new drive towards community policing, all provide a huge opportunity to deliver one of the most effective police services in a world - a model that others may wish to follow.

"To be involved in that will be a huge privilege. I see it as a post of huge importance not only with Northern Ireland but nationally and internationally."

Hugh Orde, 43, who is Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner, has spent two-and-a-half years reinvestigating the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane. He joins the PSNI in the unusual position of having to enact the recommendations of the Stevens Inquiry, in which he was involved as a senior investigator.

Mr Orde beat off the challenges from two other contenders for the post, PSNI Assistant Chief Constables Alan McQuillan and Chris Albiston.

Earlier in the year PSNI Acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn announced he would not be applying for the top post. Mr Cramphorn has been Acting Chief Constable since Sir Ronnie Flanagan retired at the end of March.

(SP)

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