Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further memorandum from Mr Nigel Wylde (28 November 2001)

  Since my submission to the Defence Select Committee on 26 November 2001 two new pieces of information relevant to the Clauses 97-100 and Schedule 7 of the Bill concerning the Ministry of Defence Police have emerged. They concern:

    —  Potential miscarriages of Justice

    —  Primary and Secondary Crime

  Both of these issues are legally complex matters and result from the ill-conceived powers of jurisdiction in the Ministry of Defence Police Bill 1987. They also mean that it is almost certain that the Ministry of Defence will return to Parliament within the next few months for yet more amendments to the Jurisdiction powers of the Ministry of Defence Police.


  The Police Complaints Authority is currently involved in three complaints against the MDP made by Mrs Monika Wylde, Mr Tony Geraghty and myself. The complaints are about the conduct of Deputy Chief Constable Tony Comben. The Ministry of Defence recently dismissed him. I understand that the Second Permanent Under Secretary at the MoD is insisting the complaints are fully investigated despite the fact that Mr Comben is no longer a police officer. The Chief Constable of Essex is undertaking the investigation. Although different in the detail the complaints all have the following two common strands:

    —  Mr Comben failed to act impartially and independent of the Ministry of Defence by accepting a direction from Mr Arthur Rucker, a Ministry of Defence Official and Clerk of the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) Police Committee, on how to undertake an investigation.

    —  Mr Comben exceeded the powers of jurisdiction conferred on him by the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987.

  In addition to the complaint against Mr Comben I have made an additional complaint against Mr Arthur Rucker alleging misfeasance in that he:

    —  Abused his position as Clerk of the MDP Committee by sending a memorandum to Deputy Chief Constable Comben MDP directing how Mr Comben should investigate Mr Rucker's own complaint.

  The memorandum was read out to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill earlier this year.

  I understand that if the complaints are substantiated that a number of miscarriages of justice are likely to be highlighted. I do not have details of the numbers involved but I understand that there may be a considerable number.

  The provisions in the Bill do not address the key issue, which is that MDP jurisdiction of people is different from that in relation to MoD property. It would seem sensible not to give the MDP any increased powers until this issue has been properly investigated and proposals to correct the current failings of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 are made.


  This issue is related to the first issue. In respect of the MDP a primary crime is one that is carried out by a MoD employee or a defence contractor. In this context the MDP only has jurisdiction over the people involved if they are MoD employees and defence contractors at the time the jurisdiction is exercised by the MDP. They have jurisdiction over property at all times.

  A secondary crime is one related to the primary crime but undertaken by an individual who is neither an MoD employee nor a defence contractor. For example if MoD property is stolen by an employee and given to a civilian to sell, the civilian is committing an offence but the MDP has no jurisdiction over him. They can however, recover the property. Similarly, if whilst MDP officers are investigating a defence contractor they find evidence of another crime they have to pass jurisdiction to the Home Department Force if the secondary crime has no relation to an MoD contract on which the contractor is currently working.

  The clauses in the bill extend the jurisdiction of the MDP to a third category of people—those committing offences against MoD employees.

  This issue is currently being discussed in the MoD as part of the quinquennial review of the MDP Agency. Assistant Chief Constable Ray touched briefly on the subject during his evidence to the Select Committee on 22 November 2001. Nothing in the Bill attempts to cover this difficult area of jurisdiction.


  Hasty legislation is invariably ill considered and flawed. In the case of the proposals in the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Bill in relation to the MDP the proposals whilst clarifying some areas of MDP jurisdiction do nothing to address the problems identified in this short submission and will mean that the MoD will have to return to parliament in the very near future with yet more amendments to the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 in relation to jurisdiction. Nor do the proposals help the MDP in any way in dealing with terrorism. They already have sufficient powers.

  The MoD will be bringing forward further amendments to the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 shortly concerning discipline and complaints. Surely it would be better for Parliament to consider all the proposals in detail in a well thought out process instead of the current ad hoc approach that is creating more problems than it is solving.

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Prepared 6 December 2001