Who is Stephen House? Who Scots Deputy Met Commissioner is, why House quit Police Scotland in 2015 and Commissioner contenders
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Following Dame Cressida Dick’s resignation as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London after her leadership of the UK’s chief police force became mired in scandals, alleged corruption and accusations of a toxic workplace culture, Home Secretary Priti Patel is now looking to appoint the next Met Commissioner.
As Ms Patel and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan clash over the potential candidates and future of the Met Commissioner role after Dick’s heavily scrutinised reign, former Police Scotland chief and current Deputy Commissioner of the Met, Sir Stephen House, is among those who could take over as head of the force.
The 65-year-old Glaswegian police chief has paved a successful but similarly scrutinised path in his climb through the ranks to the deputy head of the Metropolitan Police.
But who is Sir Stephen House? And why did he retire as Police Scotland’s Chief in 2015?
Here’s what you need to know.
Who is Stephen House?
65-year-old Stephen House was born in Glasgow in 1957 and has served in various uniform operational posts at English and Scottish police forces, including the head of Police Scotland and Assistant Commissioner of Met throughout his career.
Having joined Sussex Police in 1981 after studying at Aberdeen University, House rose through the ranks to take on further uniform operational posts in the Sussex, Northamptonshire and West Yorkshire Police forces until he joined Sussex Police in 1981.
House first joined the Metropolitan Police as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner in 2001, after a three-year stint at Staffordshire Police as an Assistant Chief Constable.
Having been awarded a Queen’s Police Medal in 2005, he rose to take on the role of Assistant Commissioner at the Met – initially serving in central operations before moving on to focus on Specialist Crime.
In 2007, House became Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police – Scotland’s largest police force – with the post helping to align him with future leadership roles at Police Scotland.
He became Chief Constable of Police Scotland in October 2012 and earned a knighthood in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to law and order, before exiting the post amid criticism of his leadership in mid-2015.
Despite retiring from policing in 2015, House rejoined the Metropolitan Police at the direction of Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick in 2018 as Assistant Deputy Commissioner and was promoted to Deputy Commissioner within a year of his return to Scotland Yard.
Speaking on House’s appointment as Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Met in 2018, Cressida Dick said: “There is a huge amount of transformation taking place within the Met and at the same time we are dealing with rising demand and big operational challenges.
“Steve has a strong track record in tackling violent crime, particularly domestic violence, knife and gang crime, both within the Met and then with huge success in Scotland.”
Why did Stephen House retire from Police Scotland in 2015?
Sir Stephen House stepped down from the position of Chief Constable at Police Scotland in December 2015 after almost 35 years as a police officer amid scrutiny over his leadership of the force.
Despite being lauded for spearheading Police Scotland’s focus on tackling domestic abuse in Scotland, House also came under fierce criticism for a number of policies during his leadership.
These included House’s decision to send out armed officers on routine incidents, as well as the increase of stop and search of Scottish young people.
Criticisms of Sir Stephen House’s chiefdom at Police Scotland intensified after police took three days to respond to a fatal crash on the M9 near Stirling in July 2015.
28-year-old John Yuill was killed in the crash and his 25-year-old partner Lamara Bell died in a coma after officers failed to respond to reports of the crash.
In a public apology, Sir House said: "Our duty is to keep people safe and we've not done that effectively on this occasion, with tragic consequences, and I want to apologise to everyone for that.
"That we failed both families involved is without doubt."
Police Scotland officers at the time were also being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner following the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody in Kirkcaldy, Fife on May 2 2015, which is now also subject to an ongoing inquiry.
Who else is in the running to be the new Met Commissioner?
Speculation has already begun about who will replace Dame Cressida Dick as the Metropolitan Police commissioner.
With no clear frontrunner to replace the outgoing commissioner, here is a look at some of the likely candidates.
Matt Jukes, an assistant Metropolitan Police commissioner currently working as head of counter-terrorism, is seen by many commentators as a likely contender.
Mr Jukes first joined South Yorkshire Police as a Pc before moving to South Wales Police and working his way up the ranks.
He rose to become chief constable of South Wales Police before returning to the Metropolitan Police as an assistant commissioner in 2020.
So unlike Dame Cressida, who never ran her own force before becoming commissioner, he has prior experience at the helm.
Neil Basu, another assistant commissioner who previously worked as the head of counter-terrorism, is also thought to be a likely candidate.
Mr Basu has spent his entire career serving in the Metropolitan Police.
In a 2019 interview with The Guardian, he said that if someone used the racially offensive comments Boris Johnson had, they would not be admitted into the police force.
For some, the comments were seen as political and could prove detrimental to his chances of succeeding Dame Cressida.
But Mr Basu is popular among officers and is still widely seen as capable.
He is also the most senior police officer of Asian heritage and would be the first minority ethnic commissioner.
Another potential replacement is Lucy D’Orsi, the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police.
She previously worked as a senior officer at the Metropolitan Police.
During her career, she was in charge of the police response to the Beaufort Park fire in 2006 and she headed up security during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK in 2015.
She would be following in Dame Cressida’s footsteps as the second woman to become Metropolitan Police commissioner.
Nick Ephgrave, assistant commissioner for frontline policing, is also in with a chance of getting the top job.
Mr Ephgrave began his career at the Metropolitan Police but moved to become chief constable of Surrey Police in late 2015.
In 2019, he returned to the Metropolitan Police as an assistant commissioner.
Like Mr Jukes, he also already has experience leading a police force.
Additional reporting by PA reporter Rebecca Speare-Cole