Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600 - 619)



Mr Key

  600. Between the Ministry of Defence Police Act of 1987 and the previous Armed Forces Bill in 1996 many changes took place and more changes have taken place since then. Perhaps I can explore how things have settled down for the Ministry of Defence police because your work is extremely important, and indeed vital to the security of defence establishments, and you went through a period of unprecedented change when you saw your numbers drop. First, you were created in the Bill, and given new powers and then we saw your numbers cut and no one seemed quite sure what was happening; some of your jobs were taken by, for example, the Military Provost Guard Service and the Ministry of Defence Guard Service. We have seen the introduction of area policing teams, which in my constituency have drawn a lot of Ministry of Defence police from Land Command at Wilton, for example. How are those relationships now working out between yourselves and the other guard services?
  (Mr Trickey) In the early days it would be wrong of us to say that we did not have problems. There were some territorial problems, but in the main we do not have major problems at all. We work quite well with them, especially taking into account, for example, in your constituency the fact that we have a unit beat officer who works more or less hand in glove with them and they think the world of him for doing his job. He is very professional. Also the Ministry of Defence police force has come a long way in its professionalism and its approach. We support all the changes that have gone on.

  601. I can certainly endorse that from my constituency's perspective. I want to put on record my thanks for the professional way in which you not only look after a lot of very sensitive establishments, including Porton Down and Boscombe Down, but also assist local police in a practical way. However, you do something else. I believe you have 56 volunteers in Kosovo at the moment.
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.

  602. Am I right in saying that technically the Ministry of Defence police have no jurisdiction outside the United Kingdom?
  (Mr Trickey) No, they have not. They are under contract to the United Nations. In answer to your point about them not being able to search lorries, they have no powers to because it is a UN directive.

  603. Effectively and in no derogatory sense whatever, in international legal terms they are acting as mercenaries.
  (Mr Trickey) I would not go so far as to say that. I would prefer to say that they are carrying out a policing job in Kosovo.

  604. They are certainly doing a very good policing job. I have seen them. In terms of the protection of your colleagues, do they have adequate legal protection in Kosovo? Can the United Nations—UNMIK is the entity responsible for the international policing—give adequate protection to your officers physically and legally?
  (Mr Trickey) As far as we are aware they have. We have checked with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They are covered. We have had three officers who have been taken ill in Kosovo and they have been transported within 24 hours back to the UK. So at present we have no cases on record and we have no complaint. As far as we have been led to understand, they are fully covered.

  605. Once again, our thanks for what they are doing out there. It illustrates and endorses your point that the Ministry of Defence police have higher aspirations than a decade ago and they have achieved more than they were achieving a decade ago. This Bill gives you further jurisdiction powers. It seems to me that the provision in Clause 6 to extend Schedule 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is crucial to the extent of that jurisdiction because it will give you much more legal cover for what you are doing. Is that right?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.

  606. Technically, under that Act you could be investigating something under the Official Secrets Act and have proper protection that you did not have before.
  (Mr Trickey) That is correct.

  607. Is it the case that, as with the Home Office police force, one of your colleagues may investigate an Official Secrets Act case and come across something quite different in the home of the suspect, and you would be able to pursue that? If you discovered that he was in illegal possession of firearms, for example, because a shotgun was found on a bench, you could pursue that as well in a wide-ranging way.
  (Mr Trickey) Bearing in mind the difference in the legal position in England and in Scotland, as ACPOS said, in Scotland he would have to stop, preserve the evidence and probably get another search warrant, but in England he could probably do that.

  608. In relation to patrolling and how you do it, can you describe the kind of vehicles that Ministry of Defence police use for going between military bases? Do they look like police cars?
  (Mr Cullen) The livery is identical. The cars of most police forces differ but yes, they are properly marked police vehicles. They have a proper livery on them and they are kitted out with the proper equipment.

  609. Are you aware of the new Military Provost Guard Service vehicles that also look like police cars, but which actually say, `Armed Security Service' down the side? Have you seen those?
  (Mr Trickey) I have seen them at Wilton.

  610. So have I.
  (Mr Trickey) That is the only one I have seen.

  611. You do not think the fact that there are so many forces, some of them police forces and some military forces, will be confusing for the public?
  (Mr Trickey) The vehicle that I saw at Wilton looked more like a paramedic vehicle than a police vehicle. I do not think that there will be much confusion because they have two totally different colour schemes.

  612. How do you think the standing arrangements at a high level, of which we have heard so much elsewhere, will work out? We have heard from ACPOS that they perceive it to be a matter of a significant number of different protocols, addressing different forces in different areas. Do you see standing arrangements at a high level meaning that each police force is likely to come to an agreement with Ministry of Defence police that they will carry out functions that previously they would not have carried out? In other words, do you see them being part of standard police patrols of an area during any shift, such that one of the cars may be a Ministry of Defence police car?
  (Mr Trickey) In the broader sphere, I would imagine that ACPO and ACPOS would have a large say, but that there would be some material matters, such as classified security convoys, that would be devolved down to local divisions. So I would agree with ACPOS in that respect. Do not forget that one must bear in mind that primacy in all cases would remain with the chief constable of the local area, first and foremost.

Mr Watts

  613. You have given some examples of practical reasons why you are in favour of changes in relation to the limits on your powers. Do you think that the present limits on powers leads to an image problem? We have talked about the civil police who do not have the regard that perhaps they should have for military police. Do you think that is because you lack those powers, and therefore you are not seen as such a high quality as the civil police? Do you think that that affects morale?
  (Mr Cullen) Certainly. We have highly trained and highly motivated officers in our force. When they come across an incident on a highway while travelling from one location to another, they feel duty bound, because they hold the office of constable, to deal with that situation. They get very frustrated because they have to call into their control room, the control room has to ring the local force to get authority for them to deal with the situation. In some instances, there is not the time to do that. So you have the situation of a citizen in a policeman's uniform, dealing with a situation such as a serious road traffic accident where someone is seriously injured. Obviously, you radio for help but you get stuck in and do what you can to assist that member of the public. This new power would take away all the uncertainty surrounding that area.

  614. Do you think that it will improve the image of the force with other agencies like the civilian police?
  (Mr Cullen) Most certainly.

Mr Randall

  615. Returning to Scotland, by and large with an ordinary police force that is regionally based, police officers would have to transfer to move away from that particular region. Within the MDP could they be transferred from the south of England up to Scotland?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes, we are a UK-based force so they can be transferred from Devonport up to Faslane.

  616. Would that be unusual?
  (Mr Trickey) No. The man who goes from Devonport to Faslane will attend a Scottish law conversion course and he will also go to Tullialan, so that he will be conversant with Scottish law, which is a common law system rather than a statute system as in England.

  617. You would not see a need for a specially designated Scottish Ministry of Defence force?
  (Mr Trickey) No.

  618. It has to be nationwide?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.

  619. On your website—I assume it is the Defence Police Federation website—you set out what you think the Bill proposes: "That MDP should be able to respond more widely to requests for assistance from other Police Forces". What sort of requests for assistance do you envisage?
  (Mr Cullen) A good case in point is the recent fuel crisis, when local chief constables requested the assistance of our force for mutual aid. Our officers were told that they could come along and help but they would be acting as citizens.

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