Editorial: Jon Boutcher has yet to prove himself as being suited to the PSNI top job
The DUP leader made an apt remark yesterday on the arrival of a new chief constable.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Jon Boutcher’s appointment to lead the PSNI “must not be a false down” in policing”.
So it must not. Simon Byrne presided over what Sir Jeffrey describes as two-tier policing, in which republicans got special treatment, as in the PSNI facilitation of the mass IRA breach of covid rules in the Bobby Storey funeral, at a time when cowardly police leaders were letting their officers fine individuals for minor transgressions, and when people across NI had accepted that the pandemic meant that they had to have small funerals.
Later Byrne, working in tandem with Policing Board leaders who joined him in an operational decision, bowed to republican pressure and penalised two junior PSNI officers who had queried another covid gathering breach.
The Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Mike Nesbitt yesterday said Mr Boutcher had made a “strong start” in his post and he expected to “see more of the same under his leadership”. But in 2020 Mr Nesbitt rightly said that Mr Boutcher had made an error of judgement in attending secret Lambeth Palace talks on how to deal with legacy, which excluded observers such as the Malone House Group and SEFF who say probes into the past are unbalanced against state forces to placate terrorists. As Mr Nesbitt said it was “hard to see how he can independently head up Operation Kenova whilst [taking part] in talks about future legacy arrangements”.
Mr Boutcher has made political comments on legacy and in 2021 came perilously close to opposing government plans, saying “let’s not beat around the bush here, there is a clear agenda from the Conservative government to protect veterans”. It was yet another example of his dubious judgement. Mr Boutcher has some way to go to prove himself worthy of his new highly sensitive job.