The Armed Forces Bill

AFB 03

Written Evidence from the Defence Police Federation (DFP)


1. The Defence Police Federation (DPF) is keen to present this written submission to the Members of the Armed Forces Bill Committee and would of course be happy to provide further oral evidence should this be helpful.

2. The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is the MOD’s own dedicated civil Police Force of around 3,600 officers – all with constabulary powers – and some 300 civilian staff. It operates in five geographic Divisions, serving nearly 100 MOD establishments and units throughout the United Kingdom and is headquartered in Wethersfield in Essex. It also takes part in a number of overseas commitments, notably in Afghanistan, Georgia and Kosovo.

3. The MDP is a unique and specialised national civilian police service, not to be confused with the Royal Military Police.  It is focused on the defence community, providing it with the same service as any of Britain's local police forces, as well as armed and unarmed security at key defence sites and the protection of Britain's nuclear deterrent and Critical National Infrastructure.

The Defence Police Federation

4. The Defence Police Federation (DPF) is the staff association of the Ministry of Defence Police. It was founded in 1971 after the amalgamation of representative of the police forces for each branch of the Armed Forces, from which the Ministry of Defence police was formed.

5. This short briefing note sets out our views on the most relevant clauses of the Armed Forces Bill. We hope that you will find this information useful in informing your examination of the Bill.

Clause 2: Armed forces covenant report

6. The DPF welcomes the provision for the Secretary of State for Defence to present an Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament every year, which will provide information on the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their dependents.

7. The Defence Community Police Officer and Divisional Support Groups, along with the Home Front initiative, serve to support the unwritten covenant between the state and the armed forces. MDP officers play an important role in helping the UK provide the long term duty of care to its service members. The general policing duties carried out by the MDP serve to bolster the foundation of the covenant. Any reduction or alteration in the role of the MDP will therefore have a direct impact on the covenant.

8. For example, domestic unrest and concern about the safety and wellbeing of family members is a major contributor to service personnel being drawn back from theatre. Evidence suggests that the mere presence of the MDP in married quarters and other locations serves to increase the confidence of service personnel as to the safety of their families.

9. Colchester Garrison is a clear example of the MDP’s important role in this. After its closure, the Garrison police station was replaced by two unit beat officers working in conjunction with the local Home Office force. Although this is an incredibly proactive and capable unit, two officers cannot possibly replace the confidence and the work that was carried out by the Garrison Ministry of Defence Police station.

Clause 3: Provost Marshal’s duty in relation to independence of investigations / Clause 5: Provost Marshals: appointment

10. The DPF welcomes these clauses which are designed to ensure the effectiveness and independence of the Service police. However, we are concerned that any attempt by the Provosts Marshalls’ departments to become more like a civilian police service, could undermine the Ministry of Defence’s own police force, the MDP.

11. Where there is a necessity to investigate offences which cross over into the civilian arena, the MDP should be the force of choice for the MOD.  The role of the MDP should therefore not be replicated through the Service Police.

Clause 4: Inspection of service police investigations

12. This clause specifies that the independence and effectiveness of Service Police investigations should be subject to inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (who are already able to inspect and report on Home Office police forces). This is something which already occurs for the Royal Military Police, but to date these provisions have not been widened to cover the RAF or the Navy provost. As with the above clauses, this appears to be an attempt to bring the Service police closer towards the police services of the civilian side of UK law enforcement and duplication with MDP powers should be avoided.

Clause 6: Ministry of Defence Police: performance regulations

13. The purpose of this clause is to bring performance guidelines for the MDP into line with those for Home Office Police Forces under the Police Act 1996. This will allow for poor performance or attendance within the MDP to be dealt with in much the same way as Home Office police officers. MDP officers will no longer be dealt with under the MOD's restoring efficiency procedures.

14. The DPF supports this position as it brings the MDP in line with our colleagues in the Home Office forces and also takes full consideration of the recommendations from the 2005 Taylor Review of Police Disciplinary Arrangements. In 2009, the MDP took on the conduct regulations which were included in the Taylor Review, but were unable to take on the performance regulations in at the same time; this clause is designed to rectify that.

Clause 7: Power of judge advocate to authorise entry and search / Clause 8: Power to make provision about access to excluded material etc

15. The DPF has concerns about these clauses which are intended to expand the power of the Service police to apply for search warrants and to allow judge advocates to make production orders for any material held on civilian or service premises, in the course of an investigation by the Service Police.

16. Clause 7 & 8 seek to bring the Judge Advocates into line with the Magistrates Courts and Crown courts. The DPF would therefore ask that the Bill Committee seeks assurances that the Judge Advocates will come under the scrutiny of the HM Court Service in relation to issues such as complaints.


17. We welcome the proposed introduction of inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HIMC). However, if the service police are to operate in a public arena then they should also be under the scrutiny of Association of Chief Police Offices (ACPO) and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).  HIMC only has the ability to scrutinise the processes followed, and check that procedure has been complied with. In contrast, ACPO and the IPCC have more powers to examine the conduct of individual police officers, including whether they acted proportionately and with due politeness during searches.

18. If a member of the public wishes to make a complaint against a member of the provost service, then there needs to be a clear route for them to do so.

Clause 9: Unfitness through alcohol or drugs / Clause 10: Exceeding alcohol limit for prescribed safety-critical duties / Clause 11: Testing for alcohol and drugs on suspicion of offence

19. The DPF fully supports these clauses to introduce a bespoke military scheme for drugs and alcohols and associated testing. This is a system which is already in existence within the military and also within the police service in relation to safety critical roles.

Clause 24: Byelaws for service purposes

20. This clause proposes to remove the requirement for consent from the Board of Trade if the Secretary of State wishes to make bylaws for military purposes which may adversely affect any public right of navigation, anchoring, grounding, fishing, bathing, walking, or recreation.

21. There is no requirement for the Secretary of State to consult with the MDP when making such byelaws. Given that MDP officers will be responsible for enforcing the bylaws, it would make sense for the MDP to be consulted in an advisory capacity when the laws are being drawn up.

2 February 2011