Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580 - 599)



  580. Does there have to be a certain level of offence for a citizen's arrest?
  (Mr Cullen) You have to see the incident taking place. As a police officer, if an incident is reported to you that someone has allegedly carried out an offence, you have the power to deal with it. As a citizen you do not.

  581. That could rebound on you in court. If someone says, "Did you see it happen?", and you say, "No, five people told me they had seen it", then your officers could be in trouble.
  (Mr Cullen) Yes, absolutely.

  582. Do you think that your members have difficulty in understanding what is meant by `in the vicinity of'?
  (Mr Trickey) No, not at all.

  583. How do you understand `in the vicinity of'?
  (Mr Trickey) `In the vicinity of', can be anything from five inches to 500 yards to five miles. That was tested in a court case and the judge said that `vicinity' means the appliance of common sense and that common sense should rule.[1]

  584. I am not altogether sure that common sense would always apply.

  (Mr Trickey) As far as my members and my officers are concerned it would apply.

  585. I was thinking of the courts rather than your members. I take the point that it could be five yards or 500 miles, but then it means that `in the vicinity of' can mean anything that you want it to mean.

  (Mr Trickey) No, we do not take it as that. Basically, `in the vicinity of' could mean 15 miles in pursuance of government stores, or things to do with government stores. Under the old force, when we had 5,000 officers, if you put every MoD establishment together, they would cover the length and breadth of England, so `in the vicinity of' would refer to that.

  (Mr Cullen) These new powers seek to take away the ambiguity. If we have the powers, we will know that when we come across something we can deal with it as police officers.

  586. I appreciate that. I am wondering what is the necessity for the words `in the vicinity of'. In theory, you could draft this to say `in the pursuance of MoD property' or whatever. As you say the words `in the vicinity of' can mean whatever, so there is little point in having them there.

  (Mr Cullen) Here we are talking about coming across an incident en route from one location to another. You may be 30 miles away from your parent station. If you come across something you need the power to be able to deal with it.

  (Mr Trickey) It would be nice not to have the words `in the vicinity of' because it is restrictive.

  587. I am wondering about that. I think that could be argued by lawyers.

  (Mr Trickey) Yes. We would appreciate the word `vicinity' being removed.

  588. What would you like instead? You just want it to establish what your role would be.

  (Mr Trickey) Yes. I also agree with the ACPOS witness who said that the Protocols should be set by our force, the other force and the chief constable and that the Protocols should set out in black and white exactly where we should be and what we should do.


  589. Following up on that, is there a problem with defining what `coming across an incident' would mean or is that dealt with in the Protocol between the Ministry of Defence police and the local civilian force? Do you think that there is any suggestion or that it is right in any way to be concerned that members of the MoD police may decide that they wanted to come across an incident that they could deal with or follow up?
  (Mr Cullen) No.
  (Mr Trickey) Hopefully, as Tom has said, no. At the end of the day that is not what we are out there for. We are not out there to take jobs off the Home Office police in any shape or form. We have enough crime on our own properties. I can give you an example. The perception of the public is that they see a police officer in a police car and they do not necessarily want to know what is on his collar or his tabs. Recently in Hereford, two of our officers were stopped by a member of the public at traffic lights who told them that the man in front was as drunk as a skunk. Technically speaking, they have no jurisdiction in such a situation. However, seeing that the man is slumped over the wheel they have a moral obligation as the overriding principle of police officers is the protection of life. So they both got out of the car. The second man radioed West Mercia for assistance and they were told to carry on. The other officer went up to the car, tapped on the window and the man looked up. The officer identified himself as a police officer and the man in the car opened the door, hit the police officer and ran off. We are trying to protect that officer because at the end of the day his jurisdiction is absolutely nil but the public expect you to do something.

Mr Davies

  590. I do not think I am breaching any confidence by saying this. That incident is one that was put to us by Mr Crowther in a paper that is among our briefing papers. Is that paper to be made a public document? I hope so. You may have seen it.
  (Mr Trickey) I have seen it in the capacity as national chairman on the disciplinary side. As soon as anything like that happens, our force has to justify whether the officer acted correctly, so they are accountable. Both officers were initially given what we call a regulation seven, which is a notice of investigation to see whether they have acted properly and in accordance with the regulations. I had both of those papers before me. That is my recollection. I have not seen Mr Crowther's paper.

  591. I asked him to produce the paper and he did, and I read it last night. I think that you and Mr Cullen will be happy with it when you see the full text. Did you have a chance to hear the evidence that we have just heard from Mr McKerracher?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.
  (Mr Cullen) Yes.

  592. What did you think of the views expressed about the Ministry of Defence police possibly having inappropriate training or behaving inappropriately and the doubts that he had about the way in which they handle firearms and the doubts that he expressed about you investigating offences? Do you have any reaction to that?
  (Mr Cullen) The first point is that the training of the Ministry of Defence police is identical to that of the Home Office police. There seems to be a rumour going around that our training is not up to the standard of the Home Office training.

  593. There has been some concrete testimony about it.
  (Mr Cullen) In England and Wales all our trainers attend the national police training at Harrogate, where they receive the trainer's certificate and they go to the equivalent trainers' course at the Scottish college. In addition, all MDP training managers, as well as a number of trainers are required to complete the training development officer course, and obtain the relevant NVQ qualification. The training is identical. All of our CID officers go to Home Office training centres and our trainers at Wethersfield train the Home Office forces as well. So the training is on a par.

  594. You reject that particular view?
  (Mr Cullen) Yes, we do.
  (Mr Trickey) In relation to firearms, as you are well aware, there are only two forces that are routinely firearms trained to the same extent as the Ministry of Defence and that is the MDP and the RUC. The Ministry of Defence rigorously follow ACPO guidelines and ACPOS guidelines in the carrying and the use of firearms for every single officer.

  595. The suggestion that you may not be able to handle firearms properly was a little patronising.
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.

  596. The suggestion has been made, not just by Mr McKerracher, but also by Sir Roy Cameron, that the powers of civilian arrest may not be satisfactory. You have already dealt with that in answer to my colleague this morning.
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.

  597. What causes this snooty attitude from some parts of the civilian police about the Ministry of Defence police? Is there a degree of professional jealousy or territorial rivalry?
  (Mr Trickey) I think professional jealousy is going too far. When we come down to the basics, I think that we complement each other. The MDP and ACPOS work very well together at all times. Occasionally, we have little rifts, but if you wanted a broader view, I think protectionism is one point and the fact that some are ill-informed and do not really understand what the MoD police do. I can well understand the England and Wales federation being protectionist towards their own officers in some respects, but we are not asking to take jobs off them; all we are asking for is the protection of the officers of the force so that they can act in a legal manner. ACPOS reiterated that stance.
  (Mr Cullen) In one breath they say that our training is not up to standard yet, but that does not stop them calling for our assistance on average 3,000 times a year to respond to incidents because they cannot respond immediately.

  598. Protectionism is a natural instinct. Ignorance on the part of the Home Office police about the way that the Ministry of Defence police work, when you have worked alongside each other for generations, as far as I know—there are 3,000 of you which is quite a large force—is a more serious charge. Why do you think that is?
  (Mr Trickey) We were always affectionately known as the `MoD Plod' many years ago. I think the problem lies with senior management level rather than at the grass roots level. I think ACPOS put it quite accurately in that at Faslane we deal with matters well, we work well and we harmonise well together. We do not have a problem with that. Some of the senior officers appear to miss the plot somewhere along the line.

  599. Perhaps it is a cultural thing, as there used to be in the Army when some regiments looked down on others.
  (Mr Trickey) Possibly. If you can remember back to 1964, there was a lot of problems with ACPO about the changing of the boundaries of the police. They experienced a lot of problems, as I have said, in Somerset, where I could not follow up a case in Devon or Cornwall. They only had citizen's arrest powers. ACPO at that time was very vociferous in changing the boundaries.

1   Note from witness: I meant broadly what I have outlined: that common sense and circumstance should dictate. Back

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