Examination of Witness (Questions 500
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
500. Finally, in his letter to me of 15 January
Sir Roy Cameron, Chief Constable, said to me, "The issue
surrounding firearms is one which requires to be addressed".
Is there any other matter surrounding the firearms issues that
you would like to share with the Committee?
(Mr McKerracher) We are aware that at times the Ministry
of Defence officers do possess firearms, but they are usually
in controlled circumstances: for example, the transport of particular
convoys. We are always informed of that and we are happy. As the
Protocol says, once these things have been discussedwhere
they are going to be and when they are going to bethat
goes ahead. We have not had any great problems.
501. First of all, what do you think would be
the most serious offence at the moment the MDP would investigate?
(Mr McKerracher) I do not think they would investigate
many offences in Scotland, other than something within their own
502. If something happened on site, would you
regard them as investigating serious offences or just minor offences?
When would you become involved?
(Mr McKerracher) There comes a point where we have
primacy. In terms of murder or certain crimes like that, the local
Police Chief Constable has primacy. Within a range of crimes they
may well deal with minor theft within their own establishment.
503. With something like rape or murder you
would expect the local police to be called?
(Mr McKerracher) Or suspicious or sudden death.
504. Citizen's arrest, currently is there a
difference between citizen's arrest powers in Scotland and the
rest of the UK?
(Mr McKerracher) I am sorry, I do not know the answer.
505. We will stick to Scotland then! What powers
does a citizen have on arrest?
(Mr McKerracher) Basically to detain anyone committing
an offence and use minimum power to do that.
506. I think there is something that has to
be a certain type of offence? I am told there is not. I could
make a citizen's arrest in Scotland if I think there is some law
(Mr McKerracher) That would be the person's own individual
perception of what was going on. If there was a breach of the
peace going onsomeone had assaulted someone, or someone
had run out of a bank at the shout of, "Stop, thief"then
someone could detain that person until the police came and then
sought to unravel that situation and make sure of the circumstances;
and then the police officer could make an arrest, or not.
507. Really a citizen if they felt like it,
if they saw a law being broken, they could make a citizen's arrest?
(Mr McKerracher) They could also stand back and let
the person carry on and run past them. I do not think there is
any obligation on them to actually stop somebody whom they thought
had committed an offence.
508. At the moment, you regard the MDP as only
effectively having those powers of arrest away from their prescribed
(Mr McKerracher) That is how we would see the situation.
509. If I could pick up something else you said.
You would not expect Ministry of Defence Police to be taking firearms
between sites, or was it that they would not be on view?
(Mr McKerracher) They would not be on view.
510. There is a good chance they would be put
in, what, a secure box in the boot?
(Mr McKerracher) Yes.
511. I think we had evidence which reflected
that in England they would not be expected to transfer them between
sites. I think that is correct.
(Mr McKerracher) There are times when firearms are
transferred between sites. The protocol there is that firearms
go separately from the ammunitionand that would be the
transfer of arms.
512. Do you expect, under provisions of this
Bill, that the Ministry of Defence Police will widen their scope
and be more involved in general civil policing?
(Mr McKerracher) I think that has to be an issue between
the local Chief Constable and the Chief Constable of the Ministry
of Defence Police. I think what the Bill offers is an opportunity
for them to be more involved, and to take action at a time when
they cannot do so at the present time. I think there are inherent
difficulties in a broader and more involved approach to policing,
because there are various issues where, because of local policy
and local intelligence held by the Scottish Police Forces, the
Ministry of Defence Police find themselves acting inappropriately
or not being able to fulfil an inquiry: for example, domestic
violence. Domestic violence is very much an issue which the Scottish
Police Service (and I am sure all police forces) are aware
of and are trying to deal with effectively. Because of that now
there are various databases in place which ensure that the victim
of domestic violence is tracked from the very first call, which
may be a simple breach of the peace, to ensure there is a monitoring
that goes on. If officers attend five times to the same house
for a similar event different flags are put up to say that this
could be a more serious domestic violence situation. If a Ministry
of Defence Police officer attends for the first time in a series
of eight calls he or she may not have access to the background
to that, and may deal with it in a different way, and it may be
an inappropriate way; in that the circumstances could have moved
on to such a point where they should be taking an action that
they do not take. I think there are issues there. I do not honestly
believe that we expect the Ministry of Defence Police to be attending
calls in our area, which our own officers would not.
513. Bearing in mind the shortages of the police,
you would not be ringing up and saying: "Can you come and
give us a hand"?
(Mr McKerracher) I certainly do not expect that to
happen. That is not a protocol I would enter into. For your interest,
we have a pilot scheme just about to run up at Faslane in Helensburgh
on the basis of the Protocol that was earlier mentionedwhere
Ministry of Defence police officers will patrol routinely their
own married quarters with our local Commander's blessing and agreement.
Again, there needs to be put in place for that to happen a whole
range of interactions, training and understanding; because we
do not want the local policies that local Strathclyde police officers
have put in place to be countermanded by Ministry of Defence Police
within that estate doing something totally contrary to what we
want. A quality service to the public is ultimately what we are
all after and want to ensure.
514. Who would have a responsibility for searching
civilian vehicles coming in and out of Faslane, for example?
(Mr McKerracher) That would be the guard officers,
which is the Ministry of Defence Police or Navy personnel.
515. They have the legitimacy to stop and search?
(Mr McKerracher) As far as I am aware they do.
516. I want to talk about expectations as far
as the Ministry of Defence Police are concerned in an emergency
situation. To what extent do you think Ministry of Defence Police
should get involved? Would a citizen's arrest not be sufficient
to detain an individual and keep evidence as well? You have talked
about the opportunities available in this Billhow far would
you like those opportunities to go?
(Mr McKerracher) I think what the Bill does is put
a safeguard in place for the Ministry of Defence police. Currently,
whatever actions they take are scrutinised and, as far as I am
aware, there is no legal support for them to do any more than
stop at an incident as you or I would and deal with it, and wait
for the local police to come in and take the thing on with the
proper police powers and evidential value coming in to that situation.
What we would like from the Bill, as drafted, is that those officers
would be able to legally take steps of arresting people and detaining
people, and maybe taking statements from other witnesses until
a point when the police can arrive. It may be, given they have
the appropriate powers, that in certain circumstances where there
would be delay in the local police arriving that they would be
dealing with the situation from start to finish. Then again, the
Protocol would have to come in place. You then have to start asking
questions like: who would report the crime? Would the Ministry
of Defence Police then attend a Strathclyde Police office and
then be given access to all of our crime recording systems and
to our crime intelligence system? Would they then end up in court
as the reporting officers? Because there is an interface with
the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland that would have to be established
for those officers to report cases. There are other items of protocol
and process that would have to be thought out. The fact they can
deal with the incident in the first place gives comfort to Ministry
of Defence Police, and a certain comfort to Strathclyde Police
and other Forces in Scotland, in that they know if we get a call
to say, "We're dealing with this", that they have the
powers, training, awareness and the know-how to deal with it properly.
517. Along with those powers come some responsibilities
as well. The way things currently stand, the Ministry of Defence
Police can choose to either intervene or not intervene; whereas
once that power is there has he not got a responsibility to intervene?
Does that not need thinking aboutto what extent that intervention
should take place, and when?
(Mr McKerracher) It would most certainly say he or
she had a responsibility to intervene. However, I do not think
that is a bad thing for anyone. I think it is good for them to
know they have the power (not only the responsibility but the
power) to deal with a situation. It is good for the public to
know the person will deal with it. Again, I would go back to the
point that I do not think this Bill can stand on its own; it has
to lie alongside a protocol between the local force and the Ministry
of Defence Police to say: "Here's what you expect of each
other, and here's how far we're going to take this". Unless
something extraordinary happens, when things would be taken further,
but they do now anyway. In extraordinary circumstances the Ministry
of Defence Police now would take things as far as they needed
to before we arrive and I think they would be supported, although
not in law. Maybe in the future they would be supported by the
518. Mr McKerracher, I suppose it is right and
normal, is it not, that any senior police officer feels quite
sensitive about another police force wearing police uniform, operating
on his territory but not under his control and not necessarily
knowing what is going on. Is that right?
(Mr McKerracher) Yes, accountability is very important
to us and we need to know that all of the officers on our divisions
are working within the law and within the standards we expect.
To have officers who are not directly under your control working
within your area is obviously something that you would want to
be assured of, in terms of their own quality of service, their
own understanding of the law, training and all the different aspects
of police training.
519. So this is quite a sensitive and important
issue to you?
(Mr McKerracher) Absolutely.