Examination of Witness (Questions 700
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
700. You mentioned specific situations. In the
Bill the provisions actually allow MDP officers to intervene in
order to save life or in order to prevent or minimise personal
injury. We have heard from the Deputy Chief Constable of the MDP
that this would present his officers with a very, very difficult
decision to make and, also, the Defence Police Federation told
the Committee last week that they did not think the Bill went
far enough and they would like to see the definition of when they
might intervene widened. What would be your view?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think there needs to be clarity as
to what are the rules of engagement, and where that clarity occurs,
whether it is in the legislation or the concordat, is of a secondary
importance. However, I do think that all concerned need to feel
comfortable that they not only know what is expected of them but,
in terms of the MoD Chief Constable, that it is capable of being
interpreted to his staff on the ground so that they feel comfortable
in making those decisions.
701. So do you feel, then, that that particular
phrase `in order to save life or in order to prevent or minimise
personal injury' is clear enough, if you were a serving MDP officer?
Would you feel comfortable with that?
(Mr Scott-Lee) As I am not I cannot say, but as the
Chief Constable of Suffolk I could manage with that, butI
do stressbecause I come from a different background and
have evolved with different policing experience.
702. Why do you think that would be different
for an MDP officer?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I do not know because I am not an MDP
officer. All I can say is as a Chief Constable
703. Do you think they would have had sufficient
training to put that into action?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I do not know because I have not heard
the detail underpinning their argument or discussion over the
point. I suppose one could always enter into a debate that says
is `life-threatening' in the eyes of the beholder? You could get
into a debate that says "I see somebody looking as if they
are about to punch you. Is that life-threatening?" No, it
is not. "Oh, by the way, I did not know you had got a fragile
skull. That punch is now going to result in your demise, therefore
it is". If their argument is along that linethe definition
of when does it become `life threatening'I would have thought
that there is enough legal experience and background to be able
to say that that sort of reasonableness, which is a test that
has often been used, or, as is becoming more the norm now with
European legislation, `proportionality', should be capable of
704. I wonder whether they feel that it is not
clear enough, because, as you said yourself earlier, it is increasingly
a litigious society and somebody will say "Why did that MDP
officer intervene" when, obviously, clearly, after the event,
life was not being threatened. Or the prevention of personal injury
might have been that a law was being very clearly broken and,
as has been said to this Committee, members of the public expect,
if they see an officer in uniform and see a law being broken,
that officer to intervene. However, under the current wording
an MDP officer might still be wary of going in for fear of overstepping
the mark. That is why, I would imagine, that could be the case.
(Mr Scott-Lee) If that is the case then, clearly,
the Chief Constable of the MoD police will be able to articulate
that from his perspective. The point I would come back to is that
policing is about making rational decisions. It is about using,
particularly, the European legislation which very heavily leans
on proportionality of action. I think that that is an important
issue for any officer, be it MoD or from a Home Office force,
to consider: "Is my action proportionate to what I am being
faced with?" If one takes that approach, it may be easier
to come to a conclusion that that is a definition that is workable.
Again, however, I would say that that is probably a question that
is better addressed to the MoD, knowing their staff better than
705. I think one of the other phrases that was
of particular concern to the Committee in earlier evidence sessions
was this acting `in the vicinity of', and it really linked in
with the Committee's concerns that the provisions of this Bill
would not promote and encourage the Ministry of Defence Police
to move into what was clearly a civilian policy authority area.
Again, are you satisfied that that phrase will not be abused and
will not lead the MDP to, in any way, encroach on what is rightly
your force's and an equivalent force's clear vicinity of responsibility
throughout the country?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I cannot believe that the MoD, from
a strategic point of view, would want to increase their role of
involvement, bearing in mind they have a core task to deliver
and a finite resource to do it. The reason I start with that is
that I am not aware and cannot believe that there would be a push
from the top to try and force this issue wider. On a practical
basis, because MoD establishments, particularly domestic quarters,
are now spread more across the community, there are going to be
inevitable occasions where not only are MoD staff travelling between
locations but, also, where housing is not solely an MoD housing
estate but a mixed housing estate. In those two circumstances,
the travelling and the mixed estate, I am sure that there is the
potential for a blurring, but I do not think that that blurring
is something that would be exploited, I think it is just a fact
that we have to recognise and come to terms with. Again, I come
back to the point that if the concordat is worked as successfully
as the previous one, experience seems to indicate that we can
overcome those difficulties.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr Scott-Lee.
Can I suggest, perhaps, that we move on to some further questions.
The issue of firearms. Has anyone any particular points they wish
to make on that?
706. I note in the submission of Mr Giffard
of 26 January it suggests there will be a revision of the position
regarding armed officers because the Police Use of Firearms
Manual of Guidance has been rewritten to take account of the
Human Rights Act. What differences do you think would need to
be done in respect of the MoD police?
(Mr Scott-Lee) One of the issues in relation to the
use of force has been the requirement of the police service to
recognise that the rules of description have changed under the
European legislation compared with how things were before. Before,
a great deal of our use of forcefirearms being the ultimate
use of forcewas about reasonableness. There is a whole
history of discussions of reasonableness that have been tested
in the courts. Under the European Convention reasonableness is
no longer one of the driving factors. We come back to things like
proportionality. It is about ensuring that not only are officers
trained to actually deliver the firearms service in a very professional
way but, also, that they understand the law that they are operating
under. In real terms, will that affect our tactics? I do not think
it will, and our revision of the firearms manual has not led to
wholesale changes. What it does require is that officers are very
clear under what law they are operating. This change of the manual
has made sure that those officers who are asked to make that very
difficultsome would say ultimatepolicing decision
on whether or not to fire a weapon have the confidence to know
they are doing it in accordance with the current legislation.
That is the significance.
707. Would there be any difference in, if you
like, operating under which law, as you say, with regard to our
armed MDP officers escorting, say, a nuclear convoy? Would they
be subject to a different set of rules of engagement, perhaps?
(Mr Scott-Lee) The primary concern about having an
armed nuclear convoy coming through any area is that the host
force through which the convoy is going must be aware of it. The
ultimate fear for any law enforcement agency is what is called
a `blue-on-blue' situation, where armed officers on both law enforcement
sides respond against each other. Not something that one would
wish to happen at all. So the first point is that whatever else
happens we must be aware of what is going on. In terms of their
rules of engagement, the rules of engagement on a convoy which
is conducted by the Ministry of Defence is a matter for the Ministry
of Defence. I would envisagethough perhaps you would need
to test that with the Chief Constablethat in a similar
way to how we have had to review our procedures taking account
of European legislation, they will have done the same.
708. You have no concerns about MDP officers
(Mr Scott-Lee) In the specific circumstances that
you talk about, not only do I have no concerns but I recognise
that they have an expertise, having been doing it for some time,
and there are some real advantages in having a continuity of cover
as opposed to stopping at force boundaries.
709. But in a wider context, apart from the
specific example I mentioned of a convoy, would you have concerns?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I am sorry, sir, I have a difficulty
in seeing where the question is going. I have firearms officers
within my organisation. Their rules of engagement are very carefully
worded, they are well-rehearsed and practised within the law.
I can foresee of no reason why I would want to use a Ministry
of Defence firearms tactical team in a mainstream policing business
in my area. Therefore, the question about what are my views of
their capacity, really, is an academic one.
710. I recognise that you are a chief constable,
not a lawyer, but it has crossed my mind, listening to your answer
there, that I certainly do not know under what statutory provision
your policemen carry firearms. Is it specified in the 1996 Act?
(Mr Scott-Lee) No, it comes under the continuum of
the use of force. If we go back to pre- the European legislation,
it is sufficient force as was reasonable to secure whatever lawful
purpose we wanted. That sufficient force may be saying to somebody
"Stand still", it may be taking them by the arm and
saying "Stand still", or it may progress to the use
of firearms and actually shooting somebody.
711. So there is no statutory change about the
use of firearms?
(Mr Scott-Lee) No, it is the definition that explains
the rationale for the use of the force.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr Scott-Lee.
Can we move on to training and experience, which is an area that
we have already touched on. Are there any further points on that
that any Members of the Committee wish to make or questions to
raise? We have covered quite a lot of those issues. The final
section, then, is investigating crime. Again, we have touched
on it but can I open it up to Members of the Committee for further
712. Again, if I refer to the letter from Mr
Giffard, he makes reference in there to one of his colleagues
having concern over the right for MDP to investigate a crime where
a member of the Armed Forces is a victim. He also says that it
"only is intended to relate to a crime associated with that
person's role as a member of the Armed Services." Let us
say a member of the Armed Forces outside one of the bases was
beaten up by local yobs, really because he was a member of the
Armed Forces rather then they had just had a row, because that
does happen. Would you think that was a suitable example for the
MDP or for the Home Office to lead the investigation?
(Mr Scott-Lee) If it was an isolated incident which,
by its very nature, was curtailed to one assault, the facts of
which were straightforward, it may be quite pertinent and reasonable
for the MoD police to take it up. Again, proximity would come
into it. If a member of the Armed Forces happened to be in the
middle of a big town somewhere and happened to get involved in
an altercationalbeit because it became known in wherever
they were that they were an Armed Service personthen I
would see that logic would probably dictate that it would make
more sense for the Home Office force to deal with that.
713. When you say `proximity', I am thinking
of an example in my own constituency in Uxbridge where the RAF
station is actually virtually in the town centre and RAF personnel
will visit the pubs in the town centre, so proximity is very close
to the RAF station. This sort of incident does happen. Do you
think there it should be the Metropolitan Police or the MoD?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I come back to what I said before.
In the first example you gave you talked about an isolated incident
happening almost in a vacuum. If we are talking about maintaining
law and order in an area where regularly members of the Armed
Forces are socialising in pubs and clubs, there will be a history
and a background to that and it may be that, for whatever reason,
in order to ensure that the rule of law is enforced effectively
it makes more sense for the Home Office force to see this as part
of the crime and disorder response to the area, because the assault
on the person from the Armed Servicesalbeit triggered because
of the Armed Services linkmay be no more than a manifestation
of violence that is taking place to non-Armed Service people.
In that case, for example, using our Crown Prosecution Service,
you are able to bring into the case the history, the background
and the context that would make it perhaps more useful in stopping
things happening in future.
714. If we go back to assuming it is an isolated
event and the MDP turn up and they find the assailant there, presumably,
in that case, they would cart him off to an MoD property rather
than down to the local police station?
(Mr Scott-Lee) In the main when activity of that nature
is taking place it is wherever is the nearest police station,
because the circumstances dictate that things diffuse quicker
when you get people into the calmer atmosphere of a police station
than on the streets. So I would have said it would probably depend
on proximity of police station.
715. Would you think a civilian would be more
or less pleased to be going to an MoD police station than a local
Home Office one?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I would think it would depend almost
entirely on the individual, their state of mind, and what precipitated
what took place.
716. I am thinking that invariably that would
be behind the wire and they would feel more isolated, presumably.
(Mr Scott-Lee) They may well do, but there again it
is not unusual, if we are talking about the assault-type situation,
for people to want to put their point of viewthe righteous
indignation "I may have hit somebody but there is a very
good reason and I want somebody to understand and to listen to
me while I tell them". If they know that it is an Armed Forces
issue they may be reassured by the fact that they are going to
be able to deal with somebody closer to the Armed Forces. Equally,
I take your point, that there may be other situations where they
find themselves more concerned
717. At the moment this would not happen. Is
that correct? MoD police do not investigate crimes.
(Mr Scott-Lee) They would come to the Home Office
718. At the moment?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Yes.
719. What do you think is the most serious crime
the MoD police should investigate at the moment?
(Mr Scott-Lee) With the discussion of the relevant
chief constable, that could be open-ended, in the sense that terms
like `seriousness' if we are talking about (as I said earlier,
with the expertise that the MoD have in financial matters) multi-million
pound fraud, that would be a serious matter which the Ministry
of Defence police would deal with, I am sure, on a regular and