Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 570 - 579)




  570. Good morning. I warmly welcome Mr Tom Cullen and Mr Paul Trickey of the Defence Police Federation. Before the Committee asks you questions, is there any particular statement that you would like to make in addition to the written evidence that you have already given to the Committee?

  (Mr Trickey) On behalf of Tom and myself, I would like to say that we apologise for David King, our General Secretary, not being here. He is off sick. Thank you for this opportunity to come before the Committee.

Mr Randall

  571. We have been presented with some cases illustrating the need for enhancement of MDP powers. I do not know whether you have this document in front of you. It says: "In the early hours of a Friday morning, two MDP officers on mobile patrol in the area of the Haymarket, London W1, saw three youths engaged in a violent fight". It then goes on to develop that. Why would two MDP officers be on patrol in the Haymarket?
  (Mr Cullen) They would be going from one Ministry of Defence location to another. In London, there is a lot of MoD properties and MoD police are responsible for policing that property. That is where they would be going at that time of night.

  572. So they would check on something in one place and then they would go off to the next place?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes. It would be a follow-up routine patrol.

  573. I think you listened to the previous evidence given this morning. We were having a lot of problems working out exactly what MDP investigate. When the Bill was put forward in 1987, the Minister said that it was really for minor offences. It seems that that has grown since then. What is your view?
  (Mr Trickey) The perception of the MoD police has changed from what it was. We have progressed. We have become more professional, more accountable to the chief constable and to everyone. It is a natural progression. As we have progressed, we have dealt with more than just minor crimes. Bear in mind also, we have a fraud squad that comes back with £43 million for the Minister's coffers.

  574. Bearing that in mind, there does not seem to be much significant change in the numbers in the force.
  (Mr Trickey) The numbers have fallen. Originally we were 5,000 in strength and we are now down to 3,200 and by the year 2002-03 we shall be down to roughly 3,000 officers. Originally we were 5,300.

  575. While your force has changed in its nature, it appears to be dealing with more serious offences now—that is the implication if it is not just minor offences—and has a wider scope, which is why you want the jurisdiction in the Bill, but in actual fact the numbers have decreased.
  (Mr Cullen) We deal with a lot of cases now that we should have been dealing with years ago. However, they did not get reported to us; they were reported to the local Home Office force. The police Protocol has sorted out all those problems. Any MoD-related incident now goes to the MoD police.

  576. Were you over-manned in the beginning?
  (Mr Cullen) No.

  577. Are you under-manned now?
  (Mr Cullen) Not at all. We had some static guarding posts from which we were taken away when they introduced the Military Provost Guard Service, which has taken over some of them and some years ago the Military Guard Service took over some posts where they do static duties at gates and so on.
  (Mr Trickey) Originally in 1987 we had common roles where we covered the bases and they have all gone now. Times have changed. Therefore our numbers have gone down. Also in reference to a remark made earlier, we are not looking to go out and do jobs; we are looking to extend the law in order to protect our officers. We are not going out to police estates and we are not going to take primacy away from the Home Office. In the early 1960s I was an officer in Somerset. Bath is in Somerset, but I was not an officer with police rights in Bath because Bath has a city force. We are more or less like that now. The 1964 Act changed that for all the Home Office forces, but it did not involve us. So now the MoD policeman is, in fact, in the same circumstances in which I was in 1963 when I was a policeman in Somerset, but I was not a police officer in Bath; I was only a civilian.

  578. I appreciate that. You may be able to help me with regard to citizen's arrests and the powers of citizen's arrests.
  (Mr Cullen) Perhaps I can go back a second. The main thing that we want for our officers relates to the case that you described in the Haymarket. One can come across an incident where a member of the public sees you in a police uniform and automatically they want you to deal with an incident. You do not always have time to stop and explain who you are and then ring up the right authority to deal with the incident because life may be in danger. You have to deal with the situation and report it afterwards. It would be in the interest of the public and in the interest of our officers to have that protection so that when they come across an incident they can deal with it. They are not out there trying to do the job of the Home Office, but they can come across instances in which a member of the public wants them to deal with something as a police officer.

  579. I think we appreciate that. Your officers in a situation like that have no different powers from those of an ordinary citizen, except that they are wearing a uniform.
  (Mr Trickey) That is true. They have about as much power as a milk-float man. As regards citizen's arrest, you can hold a man until the intent goes or you see a breach of the peace happening.

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