Memorandum from Mr Roy Large (November
PROVISIONS FOR THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE POLICE
(MDP) IN THE ANTI-TERRORISM, CRIME AND SECURITY BILL 2001
I refer to my written submission made before
the Select Committee for the Armed Forces Bill in which I raised
concerns on the validity of much of MDP's accountability in particular
with reference to Handling of Complaints and Conduct Regulations
for the Force.
Here we go again, with provisions to extend
MDP's jurisdiction but without any of the necessary provisions
to provide the same checks and balances of accountability that
apply to Home Department Police Forces (HDPFs).
The recent announcement by the Home Secretary
to include provisions for Handling of Complaints in the forthcoming
Police Reform Bill is one step towards accountability but it simply
does not go far enough.
The reasoning for MDP's revision of jurisdiction
this time is as lacking in clarity as it was for the Armed Forces
Bill. Then, it was so that MDP could be used to back-up HDPFs
for demonstrations (were it not that MDP abandoned its public
order training for recruits long ago) and now, under the cover
of this Bill, purporting to be for anti-terrorism measures.
But MDP does not have primacy for Terrorist
offences and neither will it have. It does not have primacy on
its own "patch".
In respect to responding to acts of terrorism,
MDP has sufficient powers under existing legislation.
Great emphasis was placed the last time on MDP's
increased contact with members of the public as a result of its
extended patrolling with APTs (Area Policing Teams).
Did the witnesses who gave evidence before you
on Thursday 22 November 2001, advise that, during the past few
months, three APTs have been disbanded (with the possibility of
more) and the rest are currently being used to deploy resources
to other stations during the present increased state of security?
Since the 1980's and the advent of high profile
demonstrations by Anti Nuclear and other activists, Ministry of
Defence Police have been brought further into contact with the
general public than ever before in their long history. Inevitably,
such policing operations resulted in large numbers of arrests
and prosecutions, with MDP officers of all ranks embarking on
a steep learning curve in roles and procedures thought inconceivable
just a few years earlier. A learning curve that many are still
on. Throughout the 1980's and 90's the force underwent root and
branch reforms in respect of its jurisdiction, organisation, training
and operating procedures. Much of this change was supported by
the Ministry of Defence Police Act in 1987 which provided a coherent,
statutory basis for the exercising of constabulary powers. Despite
a plethora of reviews and inspections the force remained (and
remains) generally unaccountable to the public as a whole. MDP
Complaints and Discipline procedures predate the 1987 MDP Act
and are, in the main, a farrago of civil service procedures and
photocopied guidelines intended for Home Department police forces.
Recent Legal Opinions have called them "these wretched regulations"
and considered them to have "no basis in law whatsoever."
Further advances in Home Department Police conduct
regulations and the advent of the Human Rights Acts 1998 have
left MDP even further behind in these matters and prompted serious
concerns from various organisations, including the Parliamentary
Joint Committee on Human Rights.
In a report published as recently as 2 weeks
ago, they reported: ". . . The ordinary constabularies are
subject to elaborate mechanisms designed to provide safeguards
for those rights, including subjection to various Codes of Practice,
recording requirements, complaints procedures, and training programmes.
. . ." ". . . Until the extent to which the safeguards
surrounding the procedures of Home Office police forces will apply
to the Ministry of Defence Police, the British Transport Police,
and the Atomic Energy Authority special constables in their new
functions is clarified, we are unable to be confident that the
Bill provides adequate safeguards against abuse of or interference
in human rights. We draw these matters to the attention of each
House. . . ." In spite of these concerns, MDP continue to
seek even further extensions of their powers, the achievement
of which would significantly increase their growing contact with
the general public. (The withdrawal of APTs notwithstanding).
Even more disconcerting is the apparent operational
control over police investigations exercised by the so called
Ministry of Defence Police Committee.
This "committee" is appointed directly
by the Secretary of State for Defence, its remit and procedures
are not open to public scrutiny, it produces no annual reports
or records of meetings.
Yet, it frequently instructs and manages criminal
investigations independent of the Chief Constable or other public
For example, I am aware of one particular case,
recently (October 2001) referred to the MoD Police Committee,
but delayed for the purposes of appointing a Sub-Committee to
"look into the matters" surrounding a number of serious
criminal complaints made by a serving member of the force against
the former Deputy Chief Constable and other senior officers of
In the final analysis, there can be no dissension
to a measured Government response to the tragic events of 11 September.
Inevitably, this will include revisions to police jurisdiction
and powers in order to further protect the citizens of this country.
In doing so, cognisance will also be given to civil liberties
and Home Department Police forces will remain transparent and
publicly accountable in exercising their new powers. What must
be remembered, however, is that unlike their Home Office counterparts,
MDP currently have no such transparency or public accountability.
For 30 years, MDP have continued to seek and secure extensions
to its powers with little or no attempt from within the organisation
to reform its public accountability.
Clauses 97-100 of the current Bill are a further
attempt (an attempt conceived long before 11 September) to secure
a leap in powers and jurisdiction. But, what of their accountability?
Are we to believe their promises of powers first,
accountability reforms later?
Should we accede to the plea, implied by the
former Deputy Chief Constable during his evidence before the last
Select Committee, "Give us the power but don't worry about
the accountability. . . trust me, I'm a policeman!"
The DTLR recently published reform proposals
for the British Transport Police, "Modernising the British
Transport Police, A Consultation Paper".
This paper addresses most, if not all, the issues
of accountability for this Non Home Department Police Force and
might be used as a template for reforming MDP and UKAEA (who could
shortly be merged with MDP)
Clearly, if further extensions to the powers
of MDP are required, they should come after accountability reformsnot