Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440
THURSDAY 25 JANUARY 2001
440. I think the Committee's general view is
that we should try and conclude this overall initial consideration
of the Bill by 1300 today. We are clearly looking to spend considerably
more time in subsequent weeks with Mr Comben's colleagues, the
Chief Constable, ACPO, the Police Federation and others, investigating
this area. I am just trying to ensure that all Members of the
Committee get an initial chance to investigate points and ask
Mr Comben today.
(Mr Comben) I am grateful, Chairman. I will try and
respond to that steer by dealing with the case you mentioned very,
very quickly. The decision as to whether we initiate the investigation
is very much a matter for the Chief Constable. We would obviously
respond thereafter to advice, direction and sometimes guidance
from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Attorney-General. I
do not think I can add too much to that about specific issues.
Now, going back to the general state of things. I warmed very
much to your description of how you saw it in 1987 and others
saw it and in substance it is not actually much different today.
We do not routinely telephone the Home Office force and say "We
have had a theft within the MoD estate, we are just telling you".
That is what the protocol is, the protocol is to stop that inefficient
kind of practice and to say that generally ACPO and ACPOS have
accepted that the Chief Constable and the force will get on with
its day to day business and lay down the criteria where we will
consult. We consult at the general level and, as I say, if it
is a serious matter affecting someone's life, serious accidents,
terrorism, it is an immediate referral to the Home Office force,
441. I am happy to let you come back in but
I think in fairness to Mr Randall at this stage I must allow him
the opportunity to come in. Can I just say to Mr Comben before
he does, my comments about trying to be a little more succinct
were directed to Members of the Committee not to your good self.
(Mr Comben) It is still good guidance, Chairman.
442. Just to clarify this. With regard to the
offences and the seriousness, it seemed to me that you were saying
that if it was an open and shut case you would be able to deal
with it but if it was more complex, whether it was burglary, theft
or murder, it does not proceed the same. If someone put their
hands up to a murder you are allowed to deal with it but if they
have not, you cannot. Is that the case?
(Mr Comben) No, no. I did not wish to give that impression.
I was merely saying that though the term "murder" is
a tragic thing and must always be very serious, I was just saying
that it can be less complicated than other matters, not about
whether we should deal with it. Nevertheless even in a simple
case of murder, because of the protocols, we would immediately
consult the Home Office force and the Home Office force, they
have the primacy to say whether we will deal with it or they will.
If it is a simple thing they could still say, and we would accept
it willingly, "We are going to deal with this matter"
and that is it.
443. You consult every time?
(Mr Comben) We consult every time.
444. I am a little bit concerned, and it may
be actually for over there, `vicinity of land'. I declare an interest
living half a mile outside RAF Uxbridge. I was wondering whether
you would be coming and knocking on my door if there was something
going on? `Vicinity' would be literally just outside the wire,
a grass field or something?
(Mr Comben) We do not police in the vicinity, other
than in the sense backwards under the present law; and the Bill
before you only extends the distance, it does not change the principle.
Your home, we do not police that and we would not be concerned
with any incident unless your local home department officers needed
assistance, urgent assistance, and then at their request we can
445. Your jurisdiction is over MoD property
(Mr Comben) Yes.
446. Does that extend to intellectual property?
(Mr Comben) That might be a question more for Mr Morrison
than me. I think it depends on the circumstances.
447. Mr Morrison?
(Mr Morrison) I do not think there have been any cases,
indeed the definition of "property" in the Ministry
of Defence Police Act is simply in terms of any property in the
possession or control of the Crown. I think certainly intellectual
property could in certain circumstances, if it was in the possession
of the Crown, copyright documents, for example, would be a classic
448. Copyright materials would be a matter for
the MoD Police?
(Mr Morrison) Sorry?
449. The case you have just quoted, would that
be a proper matter for the MoD Police to come well away from the
(Mr Morrison) Yes. In relation to certain types of
property, including within that broad definition, the Ministry
of Defence Police powers as constables are not limited to defence
450. It might well be intellectual property.
Would that extend to civilians having MoD intellectual property
or would it be just Service personnel who may live outside the
(Mr Morrison) It could only be Crown property.
451. Crown property?
(Mr Morrison) Yes. Property in the control or possession
of the Crown. This is not to do with the rights of people who
do not remotely come within the jurisdiction of the MDP. It is
not widening their jurisdiction to other people.
452. What would I have to have in my possession
as a civilian living outside the wire that would merit the MoD
Police to be calling on me rather than the Met?
(Mr Comben) MoD property.
453. MoD property?
(Mr Comben) All these terms "Crown", "Defence",
it would be property because our jurisdiction is in relation to
454. MoD property could be not just picking
up something from the NAAFI but some actual physical thing, it
could be intellectual property?
(Mr Comben) As Mr Morrison said
455. If I had something I should not have.
(Mr Morrison) It would be a difficult legal question.
If, for example, you had some information, mere information, as
such, I think that it would be part
456. Let us say papers. Somebody has passed
me some papers.
(Mr Morrison) Property is not limited so as to exclude
documents. If you have a Crown piece of paper, if I can call it
that, which belongs to the Crown, let us say you have stolen it.
(Mr Morrison) Then the jurisdiction extends beyond
458. If somebody passed me something which should
not have gone away, it has been stolen effectively, perhaps, or
it has been passed by unauthorised personnel perhaps would be
a better way of putting it, and it is in my possession, would
I be potentially at risk of lawful investigation by the MoD Police?
(Mr Morrison) It does not really work like that. It
is not a matter of powers over people. It is jurisdiction to investigate
certain types of offences and have the powers of constables in
respect of certain matters.
459. I am just a little bit confused because
as far as I can see the original concept of the MoD Police looking,
I think, at minor offences that Archie Hamilton as Minister of
Armed Forces said, we have agreed that has moved on, it has been
extended, it could even be, you have said you have dealt, Mr Comben,
with matters of murder. So it seems to me that it would be possible
for the MoD Police under somebody's guidance to come and investigate
the possible possession by me of something that was unauthorised.
(Mr Crowther) Could I help here perhaps? The point
on which the existing Act is quite clear is that