Examination of Witnesses (Questions 740
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
D LLOYD CLARKE,
740. I am sure we are reassured by these declarations.
Do you think that you run an efficient policing operation?
(Mr Clarke) We can always be more efficient. I genuinely
believe there are greater efficiencies that we can make within
the MDP in terms of how we do our job, how we succeed at it, whether
we can replace roles of individual officers by using other equipment,
for example cameras, and I think that is a continuing process
and a continuing change of process. We will be more efficient
in the next two, three or four years. It is a little early for
me to say, three months into the organisation at the moment, but
there are things that I would want to look at in greater detail
where I believe we can produce efficiencies.
741. So you are not satisfied with the effectiveness
or the efficiency of the organisation in the force as you took
(Mr Clarke) I did not speak at all about effectiveness.
742. What about effectiveness?
(Mr Clarke) Again, it is a little bit early for me
to say in terms of three months into it. I know that we have been
effective in respect of the key targets that we have been set
and which have been agreed. We are reaching those targets. If
that is the measure of effectiveness, I am satisfied that we are
being effective at the moment, yes.
743. Have you heard of the case of Private Trevor
(Mr Clarke) No, I have not.
744. You should have done because I have had
correspondence about this with the Minister for the Armed Forces
who is not in his normal place on this Committee this morning.
I find it hard to believe he would have responded to me on such
a subject without checking with you, the Chief Constable of the
Ministry of Defence Police. Let me briefly tell you what happened.
In May 1998, Private Trevor Thomas was attacked. He was serving
at that time with the 16 tank transporter squadron in Fallingbostel,
Germany. He was attacked by a number of fellow soldiers, led by
Corporal Hardy. It was a very serious assault. The Ministry of
Defence Police took so long to pursue the complaints and were
so lackadaisical and inefficient in doing so that the case did
not come before the Army prosecution service until last year.
His attackers were only arraigned in July 2000, more than two
years after the incident, as a result of which the court martial
decided that too long a period had passed since the incident for
a trial to take place and the case against them was dismissed.
The Minister, in response to me, has distinctly laid the blame
not on the Army prosecution service but, because the investigation
was in the hands of your force, he has laid the blame on your
force. That is a very serious indictment of your efficiency or
effectivenesscall it what you will. I accept that it happened
before you took over the force and it is a pity that that case
has not been drawn to your attention personally.
(Mr Clarke) I am unable to comment, other than that
I am advised by a whisper in my ear that that is a Royal Military
745. It is nothing to do with the MDP?
(Mr Legge) If it took place in Germany and it was
in relation to serving personnel, I am not familiar with the case
either, but I would strongly suspect it was the Royal Military
Police and not the Ministry of Defence Police.
746. The Royal Military Police handle cases
in Germany, whereas a similar case in this country would be handled
by the Ministry of Defence Police?
(Mr Legge) It would depend. If it was a case that
was involving simply military personnel with no involvement of
civilians or Ministry of Defence property, it would be handled
normally by the military police force concerned.
747. If it was the Royal Military Police, I
withdraw any suggestion I implied about the non-performance of
the Ministry of Defence Police.
(Mr Legge) The Ministry of Defence Police have no
jurisdiction outside the United Kingdom.
Mr Davies: I will take this forward with
the Royal Military Police.
Chairman: Given that other Members of
the Committee have been waiting for 15 minutes or longer, Mr Davies,
how much longer do you wish to pursue this particular item?
Mr Davies: I just wish to say one more
thing and that is that I think we have the opportunity in this
Committee to pursue this case with the Royal Military Police.
At an earlier session of this Committee, I pointed out that I
found the distinctions between all this fragmentation of police
forces within the military sphere very confusing and, frankly,
problematic. Clearly, I shall have to pursue this with the RMP.
Thank you very much.
748. There seems to be a question mark over
the motivation for the Bill. We have heard that there is a sinister
plot by the Ministry of Defence to get either a national police
force or to get new powers that they can use against strikes if
there is a fuel dispute. In your view, has this Bill been developed
by pressure from the Ministry of Defence or from your force itself?
(Mr Legge) Since I have lived with this for the last
four and a half years, the proposals initially came from the Ministry
of Defence Police in terms of difficulties that they had encountered
in the policing that they were carrying out. You had, for example,
the ten examples of the emergency situations where MDP officers
were finding themselves in difficulties. It was the sheer practical
consequences of what was happening on the ground.
749. The motivation, as I understand itcorrect
me if I am wrongis that at the moment the MoD police are
called on some occasions to act to support a civilian force. All
this Act is potentially doing is clearing up some of the grey
areas about the powers of the military police which worry your
force when they are involved in these activities.
(Mr Clarke) Yes. In three months, I have neither been
told of a plot; nor have I detected a plot, but what I do detect
is a great motivation from officers, particularly at constable
level, who need that clarity and that support to do their job
actually on the streets.
750. If the Bill is passed, it will support
the military police and add to the general feeling that they are
being supported by Parliament and that some of these areas have
now been clarified?
(Mr Clarke) It will support the workforgive
me for correcting youof the Ministry of Defence Police,
not the military police.
751. Picking up on the specific case which appears
to refer to the RMP, on the general issue of complaints, what
has your experience been of complaints from civilians about the
operation of the Ministry of Defence Police, especially if it
is in the vicinity of rather than within what is clearly MoD territory?
For instance, the kind of examples that we were given of the Ministry
of Defence Police travelling between one clear MoD site and another,
seeing an incident where it appeared that a law was being broken
and the public expected uniformed personnel who were passing to
stop and deal with it. Has there been a growing number of complaints
from the public about how the MoD Police have operated or dealt
with such situations?
(Mr Legge) First of all, in the general sense of complaints
against the Ministry of Defence Police, the Ministry of Defence
Police Committee receives a quarterly report from the deputy chief
constable, who is responsible for handling complaints. The rate
of complaint over the four years or so that I have been involved
has remained both fairly constant and very low. I was director
of policing in Northern Ireland with responsibility for the RUC,
and comparatively, for a force of 3,500 which is the size of the
Ministry of Defence Police, they have a very low rate of complaint.
I am not sure, and I would be subject to correction from my left,
whether we have had any complaints by members of the public that
Ministry of Defence Police officers have stood by and let crimes
happen. The examples we have given you illustrate situations where
Ministry of Defence Police officers faced with violent crime happening
have felt obliged to intervene. They felt that it was not right
that they should stand to one side but, in doing so, they have
been exceeding their constabulary powers with the consequences
that have been discussed before this Committee earlier. Mr Clarke
or perhaps Mr Comben with longer experience might be able to identify
complaints of MDP officers not acting. I cannot say I am aware
(Mr Comben) As Mr Legge said, the level of public
complaints in the MDP is very low, not as low as we would like
it to be of course, but to get a grasp of that it is about ten
per cent of the level of complaints in a force of about 3,500
in a Home Department. There are reasons for that. It is not that
we are all better behaved. It is because we deal with a more restricted
public, as was mentioned earlier on, and in a more restricted
number of situations. We do not have the difficult town centres
to police at weekends and that kind of thing. We do not do the
amount of traffic prosecution which often leads to complaints.
I performed a very similar role in the Metropolitan Police before
transferring to the MDP. My area of responsibility was north east
London, which has its policing problems. Having done the discipline
role for the last six years in the MDP, the profile of public
complaintsi.e., what the public complains aboutis
exactly the same in the MDP as it was in the Metropolitan Police;
perhaps not so many complaints about stop and search because we
do not do so many and not so many complaints of assault. When
assault complaints are made, they are about the application of
quick cuffs and injury to the wrists. We get our share of incivility,
of not doing the job speedily enough and that sort of thing, but
I have spotted no differences at all in the MDP. The cross-section
of complaints is exactly the same. There is a potential for complaints
to grow as many of our officers are transiting between one place
and another. It is something we keep a very close watch on and,
as you have just been told, we give a quarterly report to our
Police Committee. Complaints and discipline are also overseen
by the chief HMI who examines all our complaint records once a
quarter, but complaints against the MDP are actually on the decline,
thankfully. We put a lot of effort into the training of officers,
a lot of effort into learning lessons from complaints. We debrief
every officer who has had a complaint made against them, whether
they are substantiated or not. I often debrief officers personally
to try and get a very high level of input into learning lessons
from it, but it is much the same as in a Home Department force,
although at a very much lower level.
752. In your annual report and accounts, I notice
that in appendix A, Complaints Against the Police, the total cases
completed went up dramatically from 1998/9 to 1999/2000. Is that
because you resolved those complaints?
(Mr Comben) `Resolving' is a technical term within
the police complaints procedure. What it means is that more were
completed, more were finalised and dealt with and put away during
that year. The reason for that is that we made extra effort. We
focused on it and put every effort we could, under somewhat difficult
circumstances, into clearing these cases up in as short a period
as we could. That is why cases completed can actually exceed the
complaints in a given year, because you are completing those from
the previous year.
753. Would you be able to tell me which areas
complaints have gone up in?
(Mr Comben) The numbers are very small, so there is
always a danger in looking at increases from one to two or 10
754. I take your point that we are talking about
small-ish numbers, but irregularities in procedure have gone up
and incivility has gone up. Is there any specific reason for that?
(Mr Comben) There can be peaks and troughs from year
to year. When the figures are so low, one incident can distort
the whole year. For example, if we had, as we have had, a demonstration
where 20 demonstrators all make a complaint that they were assaulted
while being lifted off the road, I am afraid our complaint figures
go through the roof and it is just one incident.
755. Mr Clarke, I do not think in the numbers
we were given of the complement of the MoD Police we were given
the breakdown between CID and uniformed officers. Were we?
(Mr Clarke) I think it is about 320 CID.
(Mr Comben) It is 165. There was an increase of five
from 1987 to 2000 in the number of CID officers. There was an
increase of about 30 in the fraud squad.
756. About five per cent of the complement is
(Mr Comben) Yes.
757. It says again in this annual report that
almost 60 per cent of the CID complement is deployed to prevent
and detect crime within the Defence estate. What do the other
40 per cent do?
(Mr Clarke) Forgive me because I am not sure of the
context. My deputy has responsibility specifically for CID within
the force, but those are the headquarters detectives in say, for
example, the fraud squad etc.
(Mr Comben) I think that is what you are talking about.
758. "Almost 60 per cent (91) of the CID
complement is deployed to prevent and detect crime within the
Defence Estate, spread across all of the United Kingdom."
(Mr Comben) That is territorially.
759. It goes on to say, "An increasing
number of offences of rape and other serious offences against
the person are being investigated by the Force; during the past
year 30 allegations of rape have been investigated compared to
16 in the previous year. Again this is not necessarily solely
an increase in crime, but more a reflection of offences being
investigated by the MDP rather than by other police forces."
Why do you think the MDP should be investigating more offences
of rape now than they were a couple of years ago?
(Mr Comben) Because of the protocols that we agreed
with Home Department forces, more of those offences are being
investigated by the MDP. The law always permitted them to but,
as was said perhaps by yourself, the force has evolved and now
has the capability to investigate these offences, so more offences
are being investigated by the MDP; whereas in the distant past
they would have been handed over to a Home Department force.