Examination of Witness (Questions 520
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
520. I suppose those sensitivities can easily
lead to a position where there is a certain degree of professional
rivalry between the two forces operating two given areas?
(Mr McKerracher) I do not know whether I agree with
`professional rivalry', unless you are in competition. I do not
think what is being proposed is in competition. I think what is
being proposed is that a police force which just now has very
strict limits on its jurisdiction is given slightly more by way
of jurisdiction, in order that it can serve the public at times
when it is called to do so. I do not think we in Scotland see
the Bill putting us into competition with Ministry of Defence
Police. In fact, when we do work with each other, for example
at a demonstration at Faslane, there is certainly no competition.
It is about producing an action plan that meets the needs of both
organisations and the public.
521. What you are really saying to us this morning
though is that you do not want competition. You want to make sure
there is no competition between the two; that the Ministry of
Defence Police's role is quite clearly demarcated so there can
be no dispute between you as to what your relevant jurisdictions
(Mr McKerracher) I do not think I am talking about
522. You are saying you do not want competition?
(Mr McKerracher) I am saying there should not be any
competition. What we should be there to do is provide a level
of service to the public which is appropriate in every circumstance.
If that means a Ministry of Defence Police officer comes across
an incident that they should be able to deal with that within
the bounds of the law, and feel confident and secure in doing
523. Yes, indeed. You feel very sensitive about
the aspect of this Bill which does increase the scope and the
rights of the Ministry of Defence Police, because that could lead
to what you have described as `competition', which you do not
think would be a good idea?
(Mr McKerracher) I think, at the end of the day, whatever
comes out from the Bill has to be that which ensures we both are
able to co-exist within areas that we work. The Ministry of Defence
Police will still have specific duties which we will not get involved
524. You have already said you do feel sensitive
on this issue. You have already said you do not want competition,
so it is a reasonable inference to draw that you are concerned
this Bill could lead to competition; and you are not very sympathetic,
are you, to the desire of the Ministry of Defence Police to extend
their jurisdiction in this way?
(Mr McKerracher) I do not think I am saying that at
525. You have been very careful not to say it
explicitly, Mr McKerracher, but I think it is a reasonable inference
from what you actually have said, and indeed from the letter we
have before us from Sir Roy Cameron addressed to my colleague,
Mr Key. At the top of page 2 in a rather large paragraph, not
always very felicitously expressed, what he is saying is he thinks
the power of citizen's arrest ought to be perfectly adequate to
accommodate a lot of the concerns which the Ministry of Defence
Police have about their right to operate outside their own bases.
(Mr McKerracher) That paragraph talks about moral
duty to take action. I think there is more than moral duty when
you are in a police uniform to take action. Citizen's arrest is
appropriate just now, and the Ministry of Defence Police use that
power when they do intervenebecause they do intervene just
now. They do not, in our experience, pass by an incident where
a member of the public is looking for help; so they will stop
and deal with it. They stop and deal with it and call us quickly
to then add legal support to that situation. I think what we are
saying (and certainly not being defensive about it) is if the
Bill gives them the opportunity, and gives them the power to deal
with that incident from the startthe same power as one
of my own officersthen I do not have a concern about that
at all, provided there is a protocol in place which very clearly
lets everyone know where we go from there. It is not only about
arrest in the street, or dealing with something in a particular
location; it is what follows from there; and that has to fit into
the criminal justice system seamlessly in order that we do not
lessen our efficiency and effectiveness.
526. Would you describe your relationship with
the Ministry of Defence Police in Scotland at the present time
as being good?
(Mr McKerracher) Excellent.
527. So you are happy with the status quo
(Mr McKerracher) I am not saying that.
528. You are not happy with the status quo?
(Mr McKerracher) I am saying currently the situation
Mr Davies: Mr McKerracher, I think I
have asked a question which is susceptible of a simple answer:
yes or no. Are you happy with the status quo?
Chairman: I think you may be in danger
of asking what could be described as leading questions.
529. No, I am not trying to put words into the
mouth of our witness at all. I am not trying to influence him
towards answering yes or no; but I would be grateful if he could
give one of those two answers to my simple question: are you happy
with the status quo?
(Mr McKerracher) We are happy with the status quo,
530. You would not have taken the initiative
in wanting to change the status quo. The initiative has
been taken by the Ministry of Defence Police, as we know.
(Mr McKerracher) We have a Protocol in place that
allows us to work and to extend the working relationship we have
with Ministry of Defence Police at this time, and we have done
thatbecause they will patrol housing estates within the
Helensburgh area with our blessing and with our agreement.
Mr Davies: Exactly, Mr McKerracher. You
have just used two key words: with your `blessing' and with your
`agreement'. At the present time the status quo provides
for no explicit powers for the Ministry of Defence Police outside
their own bases; but you do have this protocol, this ad hoc
arrangement between you and them, which you will completely control,
because you will decide yourselves what you are going to accede
to in a protocol, and that is a satisfactory situation. Now we
have the position in which the statutory law is going to give
additional powers to the Ministry of Defence Police, that means
any powers they exercise outside their bases will no longer be
simply subject to the protocol you can agree or not agree to,
and thence the natural sensitivity of the existing Scottish constabulary.
That is correct, is it not?
531. Could I ask you to keep your questions
shorter. I do have at least one other member of the Committee
who wants to come in. Do you want to make any response to that
(Mr McKerracher) I think I have already responded
Mr Davies: I think Mr McKerracher has
responded. I think my summary, which was not that long, seems
to be a fair one. What I detect
Chairman: Could I ask you to give Mr
Watts an opportunity to come in. If there is time available then
other members of the Committee can come back. Is there one final
question you have to ask?
Mr Davies: Perhaps I can come in later.
532. Firstly, assuming at the moment you are
working to strict guidelines for when the military police can
intercede in a civil matter, that they are using arrest powerscitizen's
arrest rather than police powersdo you think that limits
their response? Do you think if you were in that position you
would be uneasy, or perhaps not 100 per cent. sure of where their
powers started and where they stopped? Secondly, you must at the
moment have joint planning between your force and the defence
force. If this Bill is enacted will that change the relationship,
and will that change the planning? Finally, would you agree with
me that perhaps having two forces operating in the same area,
unless you are careful, could be a waste of resource?
(Mr McKerracher) When Ministry of Defence Police officers
deal with a situation just now I think, firstly, they deal with
it with a degree of goodwill; because there is no absolute need
for them to do that, but they do so and we are grateful for that.
The limitations they have in terms of arrest do not, in our experience,
stop them being able to deal with the majority of incidents they
come across very confidently and very adequately. Currently, all
they are really doing is doing what another member of the public
can do; and we are happy that they do what they do. We then come
along as a police force and pick up the pieces and complete the
inquiry or the incident and bring it to a conclusion. We currently
are living with that situation. We have a very close partnership
with the Ministry of Defence Police, so we work together. When
they are not on the base and are travelling between bases and
they are on the public thoroughfare they obviously are alert to
incidents which most police officers would be, and if they come
across them would do something. That is the situation we are in.
I think the point here is about their protection more than our
efficiency. Currently, if they do something I would imagine they
could find themselves open to some sort of legal challenge: for
example, if they lay hands on someone or the force they use to
detain someone is seen as being more than they should use. My
understanding of the extension to the jurisdiction is to safeguard
them in that situation. In Scotland we do not envisage Ministry
of Defence Police taking over and patrolling our areas and getting
involved in usurping the local community constablenothing
like that at all. We see them working in partnership with us up
to a certain point; because the very success of our partnership
until now has been joint planning and protocol and very close
working, and we see that continuing in the future. Where there
are two police forces side by side I do not think it is a waste
of resources, in that the Ministry of Defence Police have, and
will continue to have, a role within the Ministry of Defence establishments
and military establishments which we will not get involved in,
because that is not our role. They will continue to police it.
However, where there is joint interest i.e. the Ministry of Defence
policeman or policewoman comes across an incident in the public
domain which they feel duty-bound to deal with that is terrific.
Where there is a demonstration at Faslane gates that we are duty-bound
to deal with then we come together and work with each other very
closely. Partnership working in all aspects of police work is
the way to achieve effective policing.
533. Take, for example, a garrison town on a
Friday night when all the troops are out in the local community
and having a drink and there is a problem that needs to be policed
both by the civil police and by the military police
(Mr McKerracher) It is the civil police.
534. could that be a situation where
partnership arrangements could be developed if the powers were
(Mr McKerracher) I think the answer has to be, yes.
If the civil police found they had a problem, they would look
to solve it in the best way possible. If that meant going to a
local council and asking for one of their servicessocial
services or whateverto help solve a problem they would
do that. If they could call on another body which would be the
Ministry of Defence Police to come and help solve a particular
problem they may do that, but I do not think we would be running
to each other. If there is a specific problem and the solution
is for both of us to work together to solve the problem, it would
be useful, I think, were the Ministry of Defence Police able to
respond and help us because they had the legitimacy to deal with
535. When we are talking about Armed Services
personnel, for instance, out on the town on a Friday night and
maybe (and I am sure it happens rarely) one or two have a bit
too much to drink and an argument develops, am I right in saying
that is clearly the responsibility first and foremost of the civilian
police, but also the military police who are a very clear and
distinctive force who are responsible for Service discipline.
Do you have a separate liaison protocol arrangement with them
when you are having to deal with disturbances affecting Armed
Forces personnel outwith the MoD site area?
(Mr McKerracher) We have a guideline for our officers,
and that would be that they would deal with that situation and
take the military personnel to be arrested back to our office
and they would be processed as per the norm; and then there would
be contact with the military police to let them know of that situation.
There is then liaison with the Procurator Fiscal, who is the chief
prosecutor in Scotland, to decide what then happens; whether that
situation is dealt with by the military police under their own
protocol, or by ourselves going through a civil court.
536. It is not a matter that is at all relevant
for Ministry of Defence Police to deal with, unless they happen
to be passing that particular pub and see something?
(Mr McKerracher) Yes. For example, if there was a
fight that spilled out of the doors of a pub as they were passing
then I think they would deal with it anyway just now and then
we would get involved.
537. I am concerned to listen to how you are
responding to some fairly detailed questions here. I think I heard
you say that at the moment the relationship between civil police
and Ministry of Defence Police could be defined as untidy; that
not in all situations is there a clear, careful definition of
relationship. I think you also said at some stage you saw this
as requiring tightening up. I am not of the belief I heard you
say that the changes proposed in this Bill would be problematic.
Would you look at that again because the Bill is defining changes
in relationship. I would like to hear your comments about whether
or not the changes are problematic; and, if they are, why are
they problematic? I am asking that clearly from the perspective
that the Ministry of Defence Police is seen as a very professional
organisation, and I would have hoped an effective relationship
could have been achieved. Could you go through that area for me.
I think this is an area of serious concern for me.
(Mr McKerracher) I think the comment `untidiness'
was not in relation to any difficulties we have with the Ministry
of Defence Police. It was, if they deal with a situation before
we arrive then they are unable to take that particular incident
to a conclusion: that would be, to eventually arrest an offender
and take them to a police office and take them through the process.
I said that situations can be quite untidy at times. I am not
suggesting by the comment that it is anything other than effective,
because it is. Secondly, my comment about tidying up would be,
if the role of each was clarified, which quite rightly, as you
say, the Bill would, then that would give those officers from
the Ministry of Defence Police who attend such incidents the ability
to take that process through to an end conclusion. It would be
legitimate and very effective in doing that. Problems come because
we then go into the wider realm of policing, which is not as simple
as dealing with isolated situations of disorder or street nuisance.
There is a whole range of issues, from child abuse through to
murder, drug offences and the whole range of policing issues.
Behind that for the civil police force lies a tremendous amount
of intelligence, a tremendous amount of experience and a tremendous
number of partnership links that have to be continually pursued.
What we may have is a situation where Ministry of Defence Police
officers, with the ability to deal with an emergency situation,
do that. Where people maybe think things could become problematic
is if they step beyond that into a more regular patrolling situation,
or trying to address drug issues or specific issues without the
background of what the civil police are doing, what their protocols
are, what their policies are and what their strategies are for
dealing with it. That is where the problem would arise; not with
the officers being able to deal with those street-type of offences
which I think they would more readily come across.
538. You are not saying to the Committee that
this Bill is essentially problematic. You are saying that tightening
up of the relationship could be very constructive, and that co-operation
could be very effective. I would like to hear you making that
statement, as long as we are talking about specified areas. My
colleague quite rightly was asking very, very important questions.
I am taking up his words now, and I would like you to respond
to me in those terms. If I am saying it wrong I expect you to
(Mr McKerracher) I agree with what you are saying.
539. In your area would the uniforms be different?
Would the MoD policeman and one of your own officers be immediately
identifiable that somebody being picked up by one of them would
know who it was?
(Mr McKerracher) They would not be immediately recognisable
as being different; they would be seen as being police officers,
even down to the livery on the vehicles, which is not that dissimilar.
There is a different badge but not one that a member of the public
would readily identify.