Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
620. I take the point about citizens and we
shall ignore that because I think that point has been made. What
did they want your officers to do? Did they want them to provide
escorts for tanker convoys, or to stand and talk to pickets? What
were they asking for?
(Mr Cullen) They just wanted assistance in carrying
out police duties for that particular task. I cannot comment on
the actual duties. They requested our assistance.
(Mr Trickey) In broader terms there is a whole diversity
of what they can ask us for. It is an open-ended equation. In
London, we specifically get calls from the Metropolitan Police
in Whitehall saying that they have an incident in Westminster
for which they have no officers available. They give you a brief
outline and ask for two officers to attend until such time as
they can get there. When I was stationed in Glascoed in Wales
the local force knew when we were out, because if you go out you
have to log on with them on the radio. At two o'clock in the morning
they asked me where I was and whether I could deal with a road
traffic accident on the Pontypool bypass. In all fairness, we
cannot say what they want us for because it could be a hundred
and one things.
621. Basically, they could be asking you to
fill in where they do not have sufficient strength?
(Mr Trickey) That is a possibility.
622. For example, in my own constituency, we
may have a severe lack of police numbers in Hillingdon and we
have RAF Uxbridge with Ministry of Defence police officers. If
there is an emergency going on and someone rings up saying that
they have a suspect in the garden, you would envisage under the
new Bill that they could ring up to ask you to give them a hand
because they are short of officers?
(Mr Cullen) If their vehicles and officers are committed,
they will ring to ask whether we have someone available to respond
until one of their officers can attend. That happens regularly.
623. Would your officers feel that they are
being used as auxiliaries?
(Mr Cullen) At the end of the day, the police officer's
priority is the preservation of life and the preservation of property.
If there is an incident and a Home Office police officer is unable
to attend, they ask you to attend, so you feel duty bound to go.
624. I appreciate that. I am wondering about
the motives. Do you think that "to respond more widely to
requests for assistance from other Police Forces" has more
to do with the fact that the numbers of police officers in those
other forces may be lower than they would like?
(Mr Trickey) In the general run of things, if that
started to happen our force would stop it. We are not there to
be a routine back-up for the Home Office force. That is not our
625. How would you stop it?
(Mr Trickey) It would have to go from OCU division
up to the chief constable.
626. It could not be done on an individual basis?
I suppose because of the terms of the oath your officers would
respond. However, after a while, if your officers feel that they
are being used inappropriately, the matter would be taken up with
(Mr Trickey) Yes.
(Mr Cullen) We police the Ministry of Defence estate
and that is our first and main priority. If on occasions we are
asked to assist local forces because they are committed, then
627. It would be no good the divisional commander
at Hillingdon sitting there thinking, "I can cut my officers
down a little because I have Ministry of Defence police on base"?
(Mr Cullen) No.
(Mr Trickey) As far as I am concerned, speaking for
the Federation, we would be totally against that and it would
be against the spirit of the Armed Forces Bill.
628. I understand that. Others may not view
the matter in the same way, unfortunately. Returning to your website
you flag up two other points, one of which states: "That
MDP Officers be permitted to act on their own initiative to deal
with narrowly defined types of emergencies". Do you feel
that the type of emergency has been narrowly defined enough in
(Mr Trickey) In all honesty, we do not believe that
the Bill goes far enough. There are serious matters. In the Bill
it mentions life-threatening emergencies. Perhaps I can give an
example of a burglary in which someone runs out of a house and
someone else shouts, "Stop that man". At that precise
point, an officer has no jurisdiction. If in the mean time the
person runs past him and the owner of the house says to the officer
"He's just hit my granny over the head with a sledgehammer",
he has jurisdiction. There are serious offences out there that
will require an instant response. For example, a patrol was travelling
through Bulford when there was a fight. You are damned if you
drive past it and you are damned if you do not. So the two officers
stopped and sorted it out. It transpired that it involved four
squaddies. The Wiltshire force said, "You've got them, you
take them". That is what will happen. They will co-operate.
The Wiltshire police came to deal with it but they said that because
it involve MoD personnel that the MoD officers could have them.
629. You would like this definition widened?
(Mr Trickey) We would like the phraseology widened
to include serious crimes.
630. The final point that you flagged up deals
with "offences against defence personnel in addition to present
powers to deal with offences allegedly committed" against
defence personnel. Presumably if a service person is out on the
street and is bashed over the head, that would be dealt with normally.
(Mr Trickey) The primacy would go to the civil force.
631. You mention that your prime concern, which
I understand, is the legal status of officers, although that is
not flagged up on this website or perhaps I did not print off
the full number of pages.
(Mr Trickey) That was remiss of my General Secretary.
632. Am I correct in saying that in terms of
priority from the federation point of view, that would be your
(Mr Trickey) Yes.
(Mr Cullen) The prime priority is protection for the
officers and it would make sense for the public as well.
633. I understand that. Obviously your interest
lies with the federation.
(Mr Trickey) We work with our police force in general.
We differ in the ways in which we do things, but the ultimate
aim is exactly the same and that is to protect the officers and
to give the Ministry of Defence and anybody else a professional
service to a professional standard.
634. You have said that you would like the scope
of the Bill widened to include serious crimes. Is there a clear
definition of serious crime?
(Mr Trickey) I would imagine that in law there isa
serious arrestable offence.
635. The officers would distinguish between
what was a serious crime and what was not?
(Mr Trickey) Yes, with their training they should
636. There will be margins.
(Mr Trickey) As Mr Key has said, we have APTs, which
are Area Policing Teams. The one thing that every Area Policing
Team is not supposed to do is to stop people with one headlight
on or one defective brake. That is not our job. If our officers
come across a fight, at the present moment they have no more jurisdiction
than a civilian, but they are morally obligated because they are
in a marked police car, they are police officers and there is
the expectation of the public that they are men in uniform and
they expect them to do something. Recently two officers were badly
beaten up in fights and they have no legal standing technically.
We had one case where someone acted when they saw a lady trying
to change a tyre. The two officers stopped to assist her. She
smelt of beer and drink and they advised her not to get into her
car and drive. Five minutes later when they were coming back down
the road they saw her driving haphazardly down the road. They
stopped her, informed the local police and arrested her because
the local police did not have anybody available. The case went
to court and it was dismissed as an unlawful arrest. So we do
637. Can I compliment you on your website? It
is very good and very informative. It has been very helpful to
me. I have not been able to discover a Ministry of Defence Police
website, however. We will no doubt put that to the Chief Constable
when he comes to see us. In your website, one of the points on
a page on 13 December about this Bill is: "Other provisions
include aligning MDP discipline procedures as closely as possible
to those of Home Department Police", a very good thing too.
I also noticed that in your memorandum to us the last point you
make is this: "However, with the Human Rights Act now in
force, we would question whether the restrictive appeal rights
in Section 5, paragraph 4, would comply with the Act". I
went back to the Act and I think you are right. I would be very
grateful if you could explain to us why you think that the appeals
are restricted in the way they are, which is quite different from
the Home Office Police. Secondlythis is a technicality
and if you cannot explain now perhaps you would write to uswhy
is it in section 4, sub-paragraph (5) that this section does not
have effect in relation to anything done in Northern Ireland by
a member of the Ministry of Defence Police? In this respect, about
appeals, if Northern Ireland is separate, is Northern Ireland
different in any other way? Are your members in Northern Ireland
operating under different law from you on the mainland?
(Mr Trickey) To give you a fair and correct answer,
I think we would have to give you a written submission because
it is quite a big Act. There are problems in the Home Office with
the Human Rights Act because nobody seems to know whether it does
or does not apply. Anything which is in law can be challenged
and probably will be with that, especially in relation to police
disciplines. I will certainly give you a written paper by the
end of the week.
638. Is there anything you would like to add
though about the appeals procedure? Do you feel your members are
not going to be fairly dealt with at appeal?
(Mr Trickey) No. We will put it in the written submission.
639. I am still confused about this request
for assistance from other police forces. If I could return to
the specific example of the fuel crisis, disregarding the point
about your members not having the authority if anything cropped
up, what sort of duties would your members be expected to do?
Was it only related to defence property?
(Mr Trickey) They wanted escorts as well as standing
by petrol stations to control the crowds. This is what we believe.
2 See Appendix 8. Back