Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460
THURSDAY 25 JANUARY 2001
460. Can I give an example, for instance. I
frequently go into Rosyth Dockyard and I have certainly gone into
areas where radioactive material is stored. If I came away with
a pass which gave me access to something like the intermeteor
storage site or something, who would come to visit my home, would
it be an MoD policeman or would be a civilian policeman, to take
the pass away?
(Mr Comben) I think I can deal with these instances.
If property is stolen, Crown property or whatever, and passed
to someone else knowingly, that person can be suspected of receiving
or handling stolen goods. The jurisdiction of the MDP is in relation
to that property. So we do, as a normal practice, investigate
both the theft and the handling. It would be, I think, actually
very impractical for one force to deal with the theft and then
another force to deal with the handling. There would be difficulties
of evidence. Let me stress that in those kinds of circumstances
it is not a procedure that we do without informing our colleagues
that we are doing it. It is common sense policing these days that
if any police officer is going from his or her jurisdiction into
another jurisdiction, it could be Metropolitan police officers
going into Essex, Essex police officers going into Suffolk or
down to Devon or Cornwall, it matters not, we always contact the
local force and say: "We are investigating this crime. We
need to do a search, say, or make an arrest at the house".
We liaise with the local force to get intelligence about what
we might be walking into. Very often the local force says "Well,
will it be helpful if a local officer comes with you?" and
we say "Yes" and we work in co-operation with each other
in that way.
461. Would you say there is a difference between
informing and consultation?
(Mr Comben) No.
462. You are going to do it anyway? They are
not going to put you off. The local police force say: "Do
not do that. This does not sound right. We would like to do that.
It sounds appropriate for us".
(Mr Comben) No, no.
463. Are you just going to say, as a matter
of courtesy, "We are going to knock on the door".
(Mr Comben) No. When I was in the Metropolitan Police
Force, one of my areas was Broadwater Farm in Tottenham. I have
personal experience of that kind of thing. If MDP officers wanted
to search premises in Broadwater Farm where there is a sensitive,
cultural community situation, we would not only immediately consult
the local force, talk to them about it, and if they said "It
is best not to search that house at this time for this reason"
or "It is better for us to do it for the following reasons"
we would go along with that because in one sense it matters not,
provided the search or whatever action is to be taken. Take an
example like that, it might well be that we would say to the local
force: "Yes, by all means, you please take the lead in this
because of these special circumstances but could a couple of our
investigating officers go with you for the knowledge that they
have got about the investigation." It is not just informing,
it is active consultation.
Chairman: Can I just say to Mr Randall
and Mr Key, it is now 12.29. I want to deal also with Clause 32.
464. It is quite an important area. I think
it is very crucial. Now, you say it is practice to always consult
the local force?
(Mr Comben) Yes.
465. There was a circular in March 1999 from
the Home Office about consultation on these things.
(Mr Comben) Yes, somewhere around that time.
466. You are aware of it?
(Mr Comben) Dealing with the issues I have just described.
467. Before that, what happened?
(Mr Comben) I think that circular was in the light
of modern policing developments ever since Lord Scarman's report.
It has always been good practice to consult when you are going
into somebody else's police area.
468. You would not be able to categorically
say, whereas now it would be, not exactly mandatory, legal.
(Mr Comben) Good practice.
469. Before it might have been good practice
but it would not necessarily have happened every time?
(Mr Comben) I cannot speak for the MoD, I have been
there six years, I cannot speak before then. Certainly in the
whole of my six years it has been mandatory good practice.
470. Consultation would have happened, should
have happened and may well have happened before that date?
(Mr Comben) Yes.
Mr Randall: Okay.
Chairman: Can we move on to Clause 32.
Mr Key: No, Madam Chairman, I have quite
a lot more I wish to pursue on this. I am very happy to do Clause
32 and then revert.
471. Can we deal with Clause 32 then please.
(Mr Miller) Certainly, Chairman. Clause 32 introduces
Schedule 5 which deals with a number of matters relevant to the
Ministry of Defence Police, mainly making amendments to the Ministry
of Defence Police Act 1987. There are three key points. First,
new provisions concerning disciplinary procedures for the Ministry
of Defence Police. The intention in the Bill is to enable the
Ministry of Defence Police procedures to be brought as closely
in line with the civilian practices as possible. Accordingly,
paragraph 1 of the Schedule extends the powers of the Ministry
of Defence Police Committee so that it may be appointed to take
certain decisions in the process. At present it only has an advisory
role as far as discipline is concerned. Paragraph 3 of the Schedule
enables regulations to be made establishing disciplinary procedures
for the MDP. These will allow the disciplinary decisions to be
made by persons outside the Ministry of Defence and the MDP. By
using subordinate legislation we can keep our procedures more
in line with those of the Home Office police forces and then keep
track of changes in their procedures. Paragraph 4 of the Schedule
inserts a new Section 4A into the 1987 Act. This gives members
of the Ministry of Defence Police who have been subject to disciplinary
proceedings the right of appeal to a tribunal. This new section
also enables orders to be made detailing the composition and procedures
of the Appeals Tribunal. The second of the key points is paragraph
2 of the Schedule which deals with the situation where another
police force requires extra resources to meet a special burden.
It inserts two new sections in the 1987 Act. New Section 2A enabling
assistance to be given by the Ministry of Defence Police to a
force which has to cope with any special demand on its resources.
This assistance may be given when requested by a chief police
officer in the Section. Section 2B deals with the detail of Ministry
of Defence police officers serving with other forces either on
secondment or under the new Section 2A. It provides that these
officers will come under the direction of the chief officer of
that force and that they have the full powers of a constable of
that force. This is the change that the Deputy Chief Constable
alluded to earlier in his evidence. Finally, the Schedule amends
the Firearms Legislation applicable in Great Britain and Northern
Ireland to exempt potential recruits from the Ministry of Defence
Police from the requirement to hold a firearms certificate before
using a weapon.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr Miller. Any points
on Clause 32 from Committee Members? Thank you. In that case we
will return to Clause 31. I am happy to go on unadjourned for
as long as you wish.
Mr Key: Thank you very much. I have said
a lot. I am happy for anyone else to have a go first.
Chairman: This is a crucial area, especially
for all of us who have had contact with the Ministry of Defence
Police. The Committee has already decided that it will wish to
take further evidence including from the Chief Constable on these
items. I am just anxious we use all our available time as well
as we can. I would like to suggest if we can, we spend another
25 minutes on this before we thank Mr Miller and his officials
for coming along this morning. Back to you, Mr Key.
472. I do wish to reassure you, Madam Chairman,
that I have a whole host of questions for the Chief Constable
and the Assistant Under Secretary. I am seeking to establish why
these powers are to be extended and the jurisdiction is to be
extended. Just following on from something that Mr Randall said
when he was trying to find out what you might search for in somebody's
house which was Crown property, and we looked at intellectual
property. Could I ask you whether the Act currently allows you
to seek out journalists' notes which are excluded material and
whether there is any difference between the Act provisions under
the 1987 provisions and the current provisions? Will this make
any difference, this legislation?
(Mr Comben) No.
473. You have no power to seek journalists'
(Mr Comben) No. I said we have the same powers as
civilian police forces under PACE for special and excluded material.
474. So the Ministry of Defence Police would
receive journalists' notes if they thought it was necessary to
(Mr Comben) If it was necessary to do so and within
the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
475. Which, of course, under Clause 6 is being
incorporated into this specifically?
(Mr Miller) No. Clause 6 has no relevance at all to
the position of the Ministry of Defence Police. Clause 6 is dealing
with the position of Service Police in relation to these materials.
476. So the situation has not changed. The Ministry
of Defence Police have always had the power to seek journalists'
(Mr Morrison) They have always had, since 1984, the
same powers as other constables and from the introduction of PACE,
PACE has applied to them as it has applied to other constables.
I think there was a great deal of confusion in the discussion
about Clause 6, if I may just mention this. I think some Members
of the Committee were assuming that Clause 6 was something to
do with the Ministry of Defence Police; it is only about Service
477. Right. Earlier, I referred to the case
of Mr Geraghty and it was rather, if I may say so, Mr Comben,
brushed aside. It is actually crucial to deciding whether Parliament
should grant the Ministry of Defence any further powers at all
or any further jurisdiction because that particular notorious
case is not, of course, alone, there have been others.
(Mr Comben) Sorry, I thought I gave a response to
478. To Stankovic, you are absolutely right,
and I apologise to the Committee for that. That was the case of
Mr Stankovic. That is a particular case which has been widely
explored by Mr Bell and others in the House. In the case of Mr
Geraghty, which was another example here where there were two
years taken to investigate that case by the Ministry of Defence
Police, and again the case fell, a very great deal of damage was
done to the gentleman in question. In that particular case of
Mr Geraghty, was the Mercia Police Force actually consulted before
Mr Geraghty's home was raided? You must have been very familiar
with this case, after all it went to a very high level. Were all
the conditions we have been describing this morning conformed
with? Was there consultation, prior arrangement and the Chief
Constable of Mercia said to the Ministry of Defence Police: "Please,
you carry on and raid Mr Geraghty's home"?
(Mr Comben) Certainly there was consultation about
the search of Mr Geraghty's home. It was not a question of consulting
with the Chief Constable about the initial stages of the investigation.
I cannot say any more than that.
479. What I am now seeking to establish is the
independence of the Ministry of Defence Police. My colleague,
Mr Davies, went through this and we established that you are accountable
to the Secretary of State. This is very important because if the
Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police is completely
operationally independent, I think you suggested that he would
not get instructions from anybody, he would not even take instructions
from the Secretary of State or officials in the Ministry of Defence,
is that correct?
(Mr Comben) That is absolutely so. The situation of
the Chief Constable in the Ministry of Defence Police in law is
no different from the Chief Constable of any other civilian force.