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£185 Million Police Staff Contract ‘Not Legal’

PSNI faces legal fight over claims the law does not support its plans for privatising 1,000 police staff

The PSNI is facing a legal challenge over its decision to outsource around 1,000 police staff jobs to the private sector – a move which could ultimately change the landscape of organisational support in the province.

The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) says the PSNI cannot legally award a £180 million contract to Resource NI for roles including call handlers, couriers, station assistants, transport coordinators and CCTV monitoring staff.

Its legal argument is firmly based on the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2003 - which only mentions a select number of roles that can actually be outsourced. This includes detention and escort services.

Although the Police Reform Act, which applies to the rest of the UK, allowed chief constables to open up their organisational support to the private sector, a Police Reform Order was never made for Northern Ireland meaning the law does not apply there, PoliceOracle.com understands.

Therefore the contract, which was awarded in July and began in September, should not be allowed at all, NIPSA’s legal counsel will claim in December.

NIPSA Assistant Secretary Ryan McKinney said even he had been taken aback by the simplicity of the argument.

He said: “Our legal counsel surprised me by arguing very ferociously that the absence of any specific detail (in law) of outsourcing these functions gives us a way in.

“The law clearly does not refer to roles like call handlers.”
Mr McKinney said the PSNI was still yet to respond to claims relating to the legality of the contract – or to indicate how it would defend itself.

Since responsibility for crime and justice is now devolved to Northern Ireland, Westminster could not now change the law over outsourcing even if it wanted to, Mr McKinney said.

He said the legal fight was more about police privatisation, and the effect it could have on policing, than just the current issues surrounding the PSNI, including former officers taking civilian posts.

A PSNI spokesman refused to comment on the case.

He said: “We will allow the judicial process to take its course.”

The Home Office chose not to comment over the application of law in the UK compared with Northern Ireland.

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