Simon Byrne has resigned as chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) with immediate effect, the NI Policing Board has confirmed.
The news that the embattled police chief has resigned following a string of controversies was announced at a press conference on Monday following an emergency meeting of the board.
It comes after a row erupted last week when High Court judge Mr Justice Scoffield ruled that two junior officers were unlawfully disciplined for an arrest made at a Troubles commemoration event in 2021.
The judge said they had been disciplined to allay a threat that Sinn Féin could withdraw its support for policing. Sinn Féin has insisted there was no such threat.
A personal statement from Mr Byrne was read out by the policing board at the press conference.
“The last few days have been very difficult for all concerned,” the statement read. “Regardless of the rights and wrongs it is now time for someone new to lead this proud and resolute organisation.
“Can I thank those who have shown me trust, advice and friendship. And of course thank you to the brave men and women of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Byrne had originally insisted that he would not resign following an emergency meeting of the policing board on Thursday and indicated that he was considering an appeal against the court ruling.
That statement was met by anger from the Police Federation, with its chair Liam Kelly expressing “disbelief and anger” at the chief constable’s statement.
In a statement following Mr Byrne’s resignation, Mr Kelly said the chief constable’s position had become untenable.
“Mr Byrne has now done the right thing. It is clear now that a full investigation is required into these matters to determine whether anyone else should be held to account for this fiasco for policing. This [the 2021 event] was an operational matter which should have been the exclusive responsibility of the service, free from political or external pressure or, indeed, interference.”
Mr Kelly added: “On a personal level, Mr Byrne has always been approachable and courteous. He has provided over 40 years of policing service to the communities across the United Kingdom. I do not doubt his commitment and attempts to build a modern, strong, community-focused Service during his tenure in Northern Ireland.
“However, he was frustrated from the outset by the failure of government to properly finance the PSNI and provide him with the tools and resources needed to do the job. I know this is not the way he envisaged his police career would end. I wish Mr Byrne and his family well for the future.”
Mr Byrne has since been facing growing pressure, with both rank and file officers and civilian staff considering confidence votes in his leadership.
Speaking to media following Mr Byrne’s resignation, Policing Board vice-chairman Edgar Jardine said Simone Byrne “always had the good and the welfare of his force at the forefront of his mind.”
He added that critical statements from the Police Federation, and Nipsa, which represents civilian PSNI staff, had a “quite significant impact” on Mr Byrne’s decision.
Reacting to the resignation, DUP party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said it is the “first step towards rebuilding confidence in the PSNI both inside and outside the organisation”.
At the press conference, policing board chair Deirdre Toner said Mr Byrne had tendered his resignation with immediate effect.
She said: “The chief constable Simon Byrne has today tendered his resignation to the Northern Ireland Policing Board with immediate effect.
“I have informed the board of the resignation at a special meeting this afternoon.
“I would like to record my thanks and appreciation to Simon for his work over the course of the last four years as chief constable.
“He is undoubtedly a dedicated police officer with a deep respect for the profession of policing.”
Mr Byrne was already facing pressure following a major data breach from the PSNI last month.
Personal data on all serving members of the PSNI was mistakenly published in response to a freedom of information request.
Details of around 10,000 PSNI officers and staff included the surname and first initial of every employee, their rank or grade, where they are based and the unit they work in.
The PSNI has confirmed the list is in the hands of dissident republicans, who continue to target officers.
A number of other data breaches has since come to light, including the loss of a police officer’s laptop and notebook which contained details of 42 officers and members of staff after the items fell from a moving vehicle.
Ms Toner said the board will now consider new leadership arrangements as she paid tribute to the outgoing chief constable.
She said: “He was very aware of and greatly appreciated the often difficult job that officers and staff across the organisation do on behalf of the community.
“This may not always have been apparent to onlookers but it was very much his modus operandi, as was his desire to improve policing for the community through modernisation and investment in local policing arrangements.
“His tenure was subjected to intense scrutiny and I am sure – PA