Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620 - 639)



  620. I take the point about citizens and we shall ignore that because I think that point has been made. What did they want your officers to do? Did they want them to provide escorts for tanker convoys, or to stand and talk to pickets? What were they asking for?
  (Mr Cullen) They just wanted assistance in carrying out police duties for that particular task. I cannot comment on the actual duties. They requested our assistance.
  (Mr Trickey) In broader terms there is a whole diversity of what they can ask us for. It is an open-ended equation. In London, we specifically get calls from the Metropolitan Police in Whitehall saying that they have an incident in Westminster for which they have no officers available. They give you a brief outline and ask for two officers to attend until such time as they can get there. When I was stationed in Glascoed in Wales the local force knew when we were out, because if you go out you have to log on with them on the radio. At two o'clock in the morning they asked me where I was and whether I could deal with a road traffic accident on the Pontypool bypass. In all fairness, we cannot say what they want us for because it could be a hundred and one things.

  621. Basically, they could be asking you to fill in where they do not have sufficient strength?
  (Mr Trickey) That is a possibility.

  622. For example, in my own constituency, we may have a severe lack of police numbers in Hillingdon and we have RAF Uxbridge with Ministry of Defence police officers. If there is an emergency going on and someone rings up saying that they have a suspect in the garden, you would envisage under the new Bill that they could ring up to ask you to give them a hand because they are short of officers?
  (Mr Cullen) If their vehicles and officers are committed, they will ring to ask whether we have someone available to respond until one of their officers can attend. That happens regularly.

  623. Would your officers feel that they are being used as auxiliaries?
  (Mr Cullen) At the end of the day, the police officer's priority is the preservation of life and the preservation of property. If there is an incident and a Home Office police officer is unable to attend, they ask you to attend, so you feel duty bound to go.

  624. I appreciate that. I am wondering about the motives. Do you think that "to respond more widely to requests for assistance from other Police Forces" has more to do with the fact that the numbers of police officers in those other forces may be lower than they would like?
  (Mr Trickey) In the general run of things, if that started to happen our force would stop it. We are not there to be a routine back-up for the Home Office force. That is not our job.

  625. How would you stop it?
  (Mr Trickey) It would have to go from OCU division up to the chief constable.

  626. It could not be done on an individual basis? I suppose because of the terms of the oath your officers would respond. However, after a while, if your officers feel that they are being used inappropriately, the matter would be taken up with the federation.
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.
  (Mr Cullen) We police the Ministry of Defence estate and that is our first and main priority. If on occasions we are asked to assist local forces because they are committed, then we assist.

  627. It would be no good the divisional commander at Hillingdon sitting there thinking, "I can cut my officers down a little because I have Ministry of Defence police on base"?
  (Mr Cullen) No.
  (Mr Trickey) As far as I am concerned, speaking for the Federation, we would be totally against that and it would be against the spirit of the Armed Forces Bill.

  628. I understand that. Others may not view the matter in the same way, unfortunately. Returning to your website you flag up two other points, one of which states: "That MDP Officers be permitted to act on their own initiative to deal with narrowly defined types of emergencies". Do you feel that the type of emergency has been narrowly defined enough in the Bill?
  (Mr Trickey) In all honesty, we do not believe that the Bill goes far enough. There are serious matters. In the Bill it mentions life-threatening emergencies. Perhaps I can give an example of a burglary in which someone runs out of a house and someone else shouts, "Stop that man". At that precise point, an officer has no jurisdiction. If in the mean time the person runs past him and the owner of the house says to the officer "He's just hit my granny over the head with a sledgehammer", he has jurisdiction. There are serious offences out there that will require an instant response. For example, a patrol was travelling through Bulford when there was a fight. You are damned if you drive past it and you are damned if you do not. So the two officers stopped and sorted it out. It transpired that it involved four squaddies. The Wiltshire force said, "You've got them, you take them". That is what will happen. They will co-operate. The Wiltshire police came to deal with it but they said that because it involve MoD personnel that the MoD officers could have them.

  629. You would like this definition widened?
  (Mr Trickey) We would like the phraseology widened to include serious crimes.

  630. The final point that you flagged up deals with "offences against defence personnel in addition to present powers to deal with offences allegedly committed" against defence personnel. Presumably if a service person is out on the street and is bashed over the head, that would be dealt with normally.
  (Mr Trickey) The primacy would go to the civil force.

  631. You mention that your prime concern, which I understand, is the legal status of officers, although that is not flagged up on this website or perhaps I did not print off the full number of pages.
  (Mr Trickey) That was remiss of my General Secretary. I apologise.

  632. Am I correct in saying that in terms of priority from the federation point of view, that would be your prime concern?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes.
  (Mr Cullen) The prime priority is protection for the officers and it would make sense for the public as well.

  633. I understand that. Obviously your interest lies with the federation.
  (Mr Trickey) We work with our police force in general. We differ in the ways in which we do things, but the ultimate aim is exactly the same and that is to protect the officers and to give the Ministry of Defence and anybody else a professional service to a professional standard.

Mr Clelland

  634. You have said that you would like the scope of the Bill widened to include serious crimes. Is there a clear definition of serious crime?
  (Mr Trickey) I would imagine that in law there is—a serious arrestable offence.

  635. The officers would distinguish between what was a serious crime and what was not?
  (Mr Trickey) Yes, with their training they should do.

  636. There will be margins.
  (Mr Trickey) As Mr Key has said, we have APTs, which are Area Policing Teams. The one thing that every Area Policing Team is not supposed to do is to stop people with one headlight on or one defective brake. That is not our job. If our officers come across a fight, at the present moment they have no more jurisdiction than a civilian, but they are morally obligated because they are in a marked police car, they are police officers and there is the expectation of the public that they are men in uniform and they expect them to do something. Recently two officers were badly beaten up in fights and they have no legal standing technically. We had one case where someone acted when they saw a lady trying to change a tyre. The two officers stopped to assist her. She smelt of beer and drink and they advised her not to get into her car and drive. Five minutes later when they were coming back down the road they saw her driving haphazardly down the road. They stopped her, informed the local police and arrested her because the local police did not have anybody available. The case went to court and it was dismissed as an unlawful arrest. So we do have problems.

Mr Key

  637. Can I compliment you on your website? It is very good and very informative. It has been very helpful to me. I have not been able to discover a Ministry of Defence Police website, however. We will no doubt put that to the Chief Constable when he comes to see us. In your website, one of the points on a page on 13 December about this Bill is: "Other provisions include aligning MDP discipline procedures as closely as possible to those of Home Department Police", a very good thing too. I also noticed that in your memorandum to us the last point you make is this: "However, with the Human Rights Act now in force, we would question whether the restrictive appeal rights in Section 5, paragraph 4, would comply with the Act". I went back to the Act and I think you are right. I would be very grateful if you could explain to us why you think that the appeals are restricted in the way they are, which is quite different from the Home Office Police. Secondly—this is a technicality and if you cannot explain now perhaps you would write to us—why is it in section 4, sub-paragraph (5) that this section does not have effect in relation to anything done in Northern Ireland by a member of the Ministry of Defence Police? In this respect, about appeals, if Northern Ireland is separate, is Northern Ireland different in any other way? Are your members in Northern Ireland operating under different law from you on the mainland?
  (Mr Trickey) To give you a fair and correct answer, I think we would have to give you a written submission because it is quite a big Act. There are problems in the Home Office with the Human Rights Act because nobody seems to know whether it does or does not apply. Anything which is in law can be challenged and probably will be with that, especially in relation to police disciplines. I will certainly give you a written paper by the end of the week.

  638. Is there anything you would like to add though about the appeals procedure? Do you feel your members are not going to be fairly dealt with at appeal?
  (Mr Trickey) No. We will put it in the written submission.[2]

Mr Randall

  639. I am still confused about this request for assistance from other police forces. If I could return to the specific example of the fuel crisis, disregarding the point about your members not having the authority if anything cropped up, what sort of duties would your members be expected to do? Was it only related to defence property?
  (Mr Trickey) They wanted escorts as well as standing by petrol stations to control the crowds. This is what we believe.

2   See Appendix 8. Back

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