Letter from the General Secretary of the
Police Federation of England and Wales to the Police Resources
Unit, Home Office, 25 September 2000
I refer to my letter to you of 1st August.
The proposals have now been considered by my
National Committee who are not prepared to support them.
Our reasons are two-fold:
(a) There is an insufficient business case
made out for the amendments; and
(b) There are material legal and other problems
that would arise if these proposals were implemented.
1. We remain to be convinced that there
is a genuine need for extending the jurisdiction of MDP officers.
2. Much of the justification for the proposal
rests on what is described in your papers as the "not
unreasonable expectation by the public that an MDP officer, who
holding the office of constable, because of the similarity of
MDP uniform and livery to those of home department forces . .
., will intervene in situations where necessary to prevent injury
or to anticipate violence".
3. No tangible evidence has been provided
of this "not unreasonable expectation". If it
arises at all then the paper appears to suggest that it arises
from the increased activity by MDP officers outside their normal
sphere which "is partly a consequence of MDP having adopted
a system of mobile patrols which travel between MoD sites, bringing
their officers into greater contact with the public than formerly".
However, travelling on public roads, in order to get from one
MoD base to another does not in itself lead to MDP officers in
the execution of their duties having an inevitable interface with
4. Further, there are good reasons why the
public, if they knew the full position, would object to an extension
of MDP jurisdiction.
5. First, MDP officers do not have relevant
experience. The Federation does not consider that MDP have an
appropriate approach to recruitment nor do their officers have
the appropriate training to encourage appropriate interface with
the public. Such considerations being borne out within the Home
6. The paper itself acknowledges that "MDP
is a specialist force". The paper poses the question
"It is necessary also to consider how
far MDP officers have the opportunity to put their training regularly
into practice in order to develop the necessary expertise to deal
with the same range of situations and offences dealt with on a
daily basis by home department force officers".
If, as this implies MDP officers do not currently
have the necessary expertise or experience, then, in our view,
it is clearly inappropriate that their jurisdiction be extended
in a manner which would expose the public to officers who have
not been appropriately trained or officers who do not have the
appropriate level of experience.
7. Secondly, many MDP officers are armed.
The question is, justifiably, raised in the paper as to "can
we be sure that members of the public and indeed undercover police
officers, will not be put at risk by armed intervention by MDP
officers?" It is suggested that there would be some comfort
by the fact that the MDP Chief Constable must notify the local
Chief Constable whenever it is intended that MDP officers are
to be engaged in armed duty on public roads; the conclusion being
(paragraph 29) that local forces would always know when MDP officers
were carrying firearms. It would counsel perfection to anticipate
that notice to a local Chief Constable would necessarily mean
that all members of that force would then be aware that the MDP
officers would then be armed. Whereas the paper suggests that
the MDP Chief Constable has "assured the Home Office and
the Scottish Executive that MDP officers would use firearms off
base only at the request of a local force" the danger
of armed MDP officers using firearms in circumstances where they
were to come across an incident off base cannot be ruled out and
indeed if there was any question of others being armed, then no
doubt MDP officers may not be slow to use their own arms.
8. Thirdly, a potential justification arises
from statistics suggesting that in about one incident per MDP
officer per year, there may be a requirement for these powers
to be used. In view of the thousands of police incidents reported
each day, we do not consider that this is a significant problem
to be resolved by the proposed legislative change.
9. A fourth and very significant reason
why we consider that the public would be unhappy with such a proposal
is that the MDP remains a civilian force overseen by an MoD Police
Committee and the Defence Secretary as opposed to the Home Secretary
and separate and accountable chief officers and police authorities.
It is, in short not so publicly accountable and for that reason
the powers should be appropriately limited to MoD related matters
10. We are concerned, further, that the
proposal to extend jurisdiction should follow what we understand
to be a down-sizing of the size of the police force by the deployment
of guardforce officers. We will be concerned, as we have before,
that a proposal of this nature is being made with an element of
self preservation rather than because of the genuine need to extend
the jurisdiction (which from current press debates, appears already
to be uncertain to most MDP officers).
11. Insofar as proposal (a) in part 2 is
concerned, the Federation does not support the establishment of
a power on the part of a Chief Constable of a home department
force to allow for MDP officers generally to provide assistance
"on land in the vicinity of Defence land". As outlined
above, MDP officers are not trained specifically to deal with
the public nor is their experience in that area. There are, further,
inappropriate protections for the public as outlined above (and
indeed unresolved legal issues as detailed below).
12. The Joint Central Committee also reject
the proposal (b) in part 2 for similar reasons, as this would
in effect mean that MDP officers will be operating on the streets
of England and Wales as an alternative police service, in any
part of the country, simply on the basis that, for instance, a
defence personnel may have been a victim.
13. So far as proposal (c) of part 2 is
concerned, we are not convinced that there is any reason why there
is a need to extend the existing arrangements.
14. Insofar as proposal (d) of part 2 is
concerned, again, the Federation is not convinced that there is
any compelling reason why the existing arrangements should be
15. Where an MDP officer is involved in
providing assistance to an officer of, say, the Sussex Constabulary
or is dealing with an emergency within the Sussex constabulary
(but not having been able to obtain authority of that force to
do so), then to whom is that member accountable? The Sussex Force
or the MDP Force?
16. If the actions of such an officer in
providing a service to the public were alleged to be racially
discriminatory, contrary to the Race Relations Act (as to be amended),
then which Chief Constable would be responsible? The Chief Constable
of the MDP (on the basis that the MDP officer is a member of that
force) or the Chief Constable of Sussex (on the basis of the actions
were undertaken either at the request of the Sussex Force, or
within the Sussex force area in dealing with an emergency that
would otherwise have been dealt with by that force).
17. In the situation outlined at paragraph
15 above, which complaints procedures would apply if a member
of the public concerned wished to complain about the conduct of
the MDP officer?
18. There has already been press coverage
of potential extensive claims for wrongful arrest/false imprisonment
arising from the possible failure on the part of the MoD to ensure
that members of their force have been appropriately attested.
Claims for false imprisonment or wrongful arrest might also form
the example given at paragraph 15. Who would be liable? It is
not entirely clear that in either instance, the MDP officer would
be "under the direction and control" of the Chief Officer
of Sussex. The issue may also arise as to whether or not the pre-condition
to exercise the powers of a Constable had been satisfied. The
issue may be: had an appropriate request been made by the MDP
officer for support or, further, whether the MDP officer was dealing
with an emergency and/or should the officer have been able to
obtain authority from the local force.
19. In the example given, is it intended
that the MoD provide appropriate insurance cover for the officers
acting either at the request of the home department police force,
or dealing with an emergency (with which the Home Office Force
should normally deal), or will this be a matter covered by the
Sussex Force Policy (notwithstanding the absence of any control
or direction available).
In these circumstances and for all these reasons,
the Federation remains of the view that jurisdiction of MDP officers
should not be extended and therefore we would object to the proposals.