Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 560 - 569)



  560. Even though the chief constable of your police force has primacy inside the wire as well as outside?
  (Mr McKerracher) I think we have to be careful when talking about searching vehicles. You are aligning a criminal search of a vehicle with one for security reasons. A security guard could search a vehicle going into Faslane, and you, as a contractor, would submit to that through the contract that you agreed with the Ministry of Defence, so you would have your vehicle searched. That is not the same as a police officer searching for evidence in terms of a crime. You have to be aware of the distinction there. It may be that the contract allows Ministry of Defence police or a security guard at the gate, with Ministry of Defence police present, to search a vehicle entering the base. It is certainly not a police officer from my force that would search that vehicle. There would be no reason. We do not have the power to search such a vehicle, but in terms of the security of the base there may well be a power that would allow security guards to search.

  561. I find it very surprising that you do not have the power to search.
  (Mr McKerracher) For what reason would we search, unless we suspected a crime had taken place, or was going to take place, or there was reasonable suspicion?

  562. If Ministry of Defence property has been stolen, if it has been established that some piece of equipment has been stolen at Faslane or anywhere else—a tin of baked beans in Kosovo—the principle is important. Then it is a matter of saying who has primacy.
  (Mr McKerracher) You have now described a crime to me, the theft of Ministry of Defence property, so, yes, we have the ability because of reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle and to search for stolen property or we could get a search warrant. I am saying that with the traffic in and out an establishment like Faslane, there would be a general security search that would go on that could be carried out by a private security firm that could be standing at the gate. In that situation it is not a civil police search. It may well be Ministry of Defence police in terms of the security of the base, but not in relation to the crime of theft or any other crime.

  Mr Key: I think I shall return to this later.


  563. Are military personnel on guard at the gates at Faslane? If so, you could have interaction between armed military personnel, Ministry of Defence police, the civilian police and private security firms.
  (Mr McKerracher) I am not sure what the situation is at the gate at Faslane on a daily basis, other than that we do not have a regular police presence at that gate. The police presence at the entrance gate is, I believe, Ministry of Defence police. Whether there are Navy personnel there or not I am not sure. I am not even sure whether there is a private security firm there. I am trying to draw a line between vehicles entering and leaving Faslane. They would not be subject to a police search, but they may be subject to a search in terms of the security of the establishment. But it is certainly not a civilian police search.

  564. In relation to that, do you liaise with military personnel or armed military personnel guarding the base when you have notice of a demonstration?
  (Mr McKerracher) We liaise with the Navy, the Ministry of Defence police and our own L division and they would all come together. I would have a meeting with them. A fortnight before any demonstration we would sit down and discuss our strategy for such a demonstration.

  565. I am aware that there was an incident recently at Faslane of civilians being accused of theft. There was also an incident at Rosyth that involved the illegal sale of drugs and cigarettes and Customs & Excise were involved, and I assume that the civilian police and the MoD police were involved as well. I do not know whether that matter is still sub judice, but it would be interesting to know what the inter-relationship or the planning was in regard to the involvement of the different forces.
  (Mr McKerracher) I have no knowledge of the particular cases that you describe. However, we work closely with Customs & Excise and the Ministry of Defence police in all sorts of situations. That is the way in which we have to operate. We have to work with all the relevant bodies to ensure that we keep on top of crime and safety in our communities.

Mr Watts

  566. In the past we have been told that the relationship with the military police is based on partnership, discussion and agreement and that the final decision on any investigation is that of the chief constable in the civilian force. The agreement on where an investigation should go is based on discussion between the civil and the military police forces, and the military police are used, when it is deemed appropriate, in the most effective way of investigating a crime. Are the procedures that I have outlined correct?
  (Mr McKerracher) Are we talking about crimes committed within a Ministry of Defence establishment or outwith one?

  567. Yes, inside a Ministry of Defence establishment.
  (Mr McKerracher) I think what you describe is fair.

  Chairman: Mr Watts, are you referring to military police or to Ministry of Defence police?

  Mr Watts: I was referring to both, Chairman. As I understand it, the primacy on all these issues is with the chief constable. He makes the decision as to whether he or his force investigates those matters or whether some other force investigates them. It is done by agreement after discussion as to what crime has taken place and what is the appropriate line of investigation.

  Chairman: That is perhaps something at which we need to look. I am not sure about this when it is something that concerns Armed Forces personnel and a commanding officer is dealing with it. That is something on which we need to be clear.

  Mr Watts: Chairman, I was talking of the Protocol and about things being agreed. I think there is a protocol that something would be investigated by the military, but only through agreement. If it did happen, it would be done by agreement. That is what I understood the position to be.


  568. I shall look at that further. Is there any final point that you wish to make, Mr McKerracher?
  (Mr McKerracher) No, thank you. I am happy with everything that I have said.

  569. Thank you very much for giving us so much of your time and for dealing so effectively with the various points and questions that have been raised with you. I can safely say on behalf of the Committee that we would like to express publicly our appreciation to the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland for the work that they and serving officers conduct on behalf of the public every single day.
  (Mr McKerracher) Thank you very much.

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