Sunday, March 01, 2009

MacAskill fails to select successor to HMIC’s Paddy Tomkins as Police Chiefs demand action

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill cant get anything right these days .. and that includes appointing a successor to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), where Paddy Tomkins, former Chief Constable of Lothian & Borders Police, will exit his position in April.

The Scotsman reports :

Stop delaying on watchdog, police chiefs tell MacAskill

Published Date: 28 February 2009
By Michael Howie

SCOTLAND'S police chiefs have raised deep concerns with Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister, over delays in his appointing a new chief inspector of constabulary.

Paddy Tomkins relinquishes the post in April, but no replacement is being sought; ministers want to consider the future role and shape of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) before appointing a new head.

However, The Scotsman has learned that chief constables and police board conveners are seriously concerned at the delay, fearing it could harm efforts to improve the police service.

They have written a strongly worded letter to the cabinet secretary urging him to find a suitable replacement soon.

The matter was discussed at a meeting between the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and a forum of police board conveners last week.

One of the chief inspector's main roles is to provide professional advice to help ensure police boards pick the right candidates for senior officer posts.

The chief inspector's advice is usually followed by police boards, and in turn the justice minister, who rubber-stamps the move.

Councillor Iain Whyte, convener of the Lothian and Borders Joint Police Board, said: "We are going through an appointment process for an assistant chief constable and we will be able to count on Mr Tomkins' advice.

"But it must be very concerning for other forces that may have vacancies coming up."

The HMIC's assistant chief inspector, Bill Skelly, is expected to assume Mr Tomkins's duties while the Scottish Government decides on a successor.

But concerns have been raised over Mr Skelly's relative lack of experience within the watchdog. The former Lothian and Borders assistant chief constable was seconded to the inspectorate in December 2008.

Mr Tomkins, former chief constable of Lothian and Borders, announced in November 2008 that he was leaving the post to "seek new challenges".

He was appointed in 2006 for a three-year term on an annual salary of £173,000.

The letter to Mr MacAskill warns that failure to replace Mr Tomkins with someone who has sufficient experience would damage the HMIC's credibility.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The assistant chief inspector is in post. All the necessary duties of HMICS will be carried out.

"The Independent Review of Policing, which was carried out by Mr Tomkins, makes a number of recommendations that would influence the future role of the inspectorate.

"We will be discussing these issues with stakeholders before making decisions about appointing a new chief inspector."

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