Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Letter to Mr Robert Key MP from the Honorary Secretary, ACPOs, 15 January 2001

  I refer to your letter of 15 December 2000, relative to the above subject which you sent to William Robertson and can advise that this matter has been considered by our General Policing Standing Committee.

  Members of the Association previously expressed concerns regarding a number of areas during compilation of the document Co-ordinated Policing Protocol between the Ministry of Defence Police and the Police Forces in Scotland in 1999 notably;

    —  Differing operational procedures between MDP and Scottish Police Forces.

    —  Differing levels of training between officers from the MDP and Scottish Police Forces.

    —  Differing levels of experience between officers from MDP and Scottish Police Forces.

    —  Routine carrying of firearms by MDP officers.

  After much deliberation and various amendments, to ensure the final version accurately reflected the Association's views, an agreed form of wording, acceptable to the Scottish Police Service, Scottish Executive, Crown Office and the Ministry of Defence Police was reached culminating in the issue of Police Circular No 14/1999.

  Whilst we accept the points made in the Home Office proposal document in respect of the expectations of the public and potential risk of legal proceedings being taken against MoD officers for failing to take action, concerns had been expressed in regard to the two main proposals contained in Part One of the paper. We feel that we should highlight that in cases of immediate urgency, all citizens, whether or not they have been conferred with specific legal powers, have a moral duty to take action. Therefore it is felt action taken in accordance with this duty is likely to cover a substantial proportion of the "cases justifying emergency intervention", referred to in the supporting correspondence. In light of same the question of what constitutes an emergency would have to be defined in order that Home Department and MDP forces do not interpret such incidents differently.

  The very nature of the work undertaken by MDP officers differs substantially from that carried out by officers of Scottish Police Forces and, as a consequence, the training given to each differs. As a result there is potential for difficulties to arise, particularly in respect of legal liability for acts carried out, or not as the case may be, by MDP officers acting within the jurisdiction and possibly under the direction of officers from a Scottish Police Force.

  In addition the involvement of armed MDP officers in incidents outwith the confines of MoD owned property gives rise to further concerns. In particular paragraph 30 of the document outlines that "MDP officers would use firearms off-base only at the request of a local force. If MDP officers unexpectedly came across an incident off-base involving arms, they would not use their weapons without this prior authority". It is this latter scenario which causes concern given that, in these circumstances, it may not be practicable for MDP officers to seek and obtain the required authority. If this is acknowledged, it will be necessary to fully explore the implications of self-arming and whether a policy is required in this respect. The over-riding principle must be that members of the public and indeed other police officers, will not be at risk by the armed intervention of MDP officers.

  Members expressed similar concerns with regard to the ancillary proposals contained within Part Two of the documentation.

  Therefore we feel it would be appropriate that the following be given close consideration:

    —  The issue surrounding firearms is one which requires to be addressed.

    —  The need to carry out joint training exercises between local forces and MDP officers, particularly in relation to firearms.

    —  A critical area will be communication and there must be adequate provision made to enable local forces and MDP to communicate effectively. The proposed new radio system due to be introduced may offer an opportunity to greatly improve communication links and if the proposals to extend the jurisdiction are adopted then it may be that MDP will require to be part of the same.

    —  The proposals will introduce greater integration which raises various issues in relation to compatibility of databases, sharing of information and exchange of intelligence. To this end strict protocols will be required to achieve an integrated information exchange.

    —  Agreement and development of a protocol to determine a command structure. If MDP powers are increased it could lead to a situation where the MDP officer at locus could be the senior officer.

    —  Agreement and development of a protocol to determine precise roles and responsibilities. If MDP officers arrest a person in the home force area for an offence, is there an expectation they will continue with the case to conclusion or hand over to home officers at some stage? In an effort to prevent confusion it will be important to clarify demarcation.

    —  As MDP cover England, Wales and Scotland, it is essential their officers are sufficiently trained in police powers in respect of Scots Law. This is seen as specifically important to require some form of certified formal training.

  In conclusion the Association remains of the view that it is extremely important that any extension of jurisdiction and powers is properly managed and controlled to prevent a situation where we have various forces empowered to lawfully perform duty in the same area, thereby leading to considerable confusion, ambiguity and differing working practices which will undoubtedly impact on service delivery to the public.

  I trust the foregoing is of assistance.

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