Memorandum submitted by Gillian Linscott
and Tony Geraghty
The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is the
eighth largest force in the country.
It was set up to police Ministry of Defence
property and personnel.
It is at present covered by the Ministry of
Defence Police Act 1987.
On 1 April 1996 it was made a Defence Agency.
(The Chief Constable of the MDP, as head of
the agency, is unique among chief constables in being on a bonus
system, receiving more pay if he runs his force efficiently. See
The Times, 1 April 1996 "Military police chief gains
right to bonus.")
The agency operates under the Secretary of State
for Defence, who has ultimate responsibility for determining the
size, policy and resources of the force. These responsibilities
are delegated to the 2nd permanent under secretary of state at
the MoD who is also chairman of the MoD police committee. He is
also the owner of the agency. The chief constable has direct access
to the Secretary of State for Defence, to whom he is ultimately
A Home Office circular HOC 17/99, issued 25
March 1999, sets out agreed guidelines for "efficient and
effective working relationships between Ministry of Defence Police
and Home Office police forces." (This circular was to have
been updated annually from the time of the MDP Police Act in 1987,
but this was not done and the 1999 circular is the only update.)
The Debate in 1987
When the present Act was debated 14 years ago,
doubts were already being expressed by some MPs eg Sir Eldon Griffiths
that its powers were too wide. (See Hansard, 6th series
Volume 10927 January 1987 Columns 278 and 279.) He was
especially concerned about Section 2, Subsection 3(c) which gives
MDP police the powers and privileges of constables "In
relation to matters connected with anything done under a contract
entered into by the Secretary of State for Defence for the purposes
of his department or the Defence Council." The Minister,
Archie Hamilton, reassured him that the reason for extending MDP
powers to things done under a contract was to protect sensitive
pieces of defence equipment while they were being manufactured
by private firms. Mr Hamilton said in the same debate that he
wanted to make it absolutely clear "that the Home Department
police have prime responsibility for the enforcement of law and
nothing in the bill changes that . . . There is an absolute requirement
for the Ministry of Defence Police to pass serious crimes such
as murder or rape to the Home Department forces."
Doubts about jurisdiction after 1987
The then chief constable W E E (Walter) Boreham
OBE (who has recently retired) published a five-year corporate
plan for his agency, 1997-2002. In it he expressed the following
concern about the agency's jurisdiction:
"The basis of MDP jurisdiction
as set out in the MDP Act of 1987, is sound but it does need come
clarification and revision for it to remain effective. The progress
of the force is being hindered, individual officers are apprehensive
about what they can and should do in situations beyond the boundaries
of Establishments as the likelihood of legal challenge, judicial
review or civil action is increasing."
Misuse of MDP powers in raiding and arresting
writer Tony Geraghty, 3 December 1998
At 6.30 am on 3 December 1998, six plain clothes
officers of the Ministry of Defence Police (with no Home Office
police officers present) raided the home in Herefordshire of a
civilian, Tony Geraghty, an author and journalist. They made it
clear that the arrest was in connection with a book of his published
two months before The Irish War. They arrested under the
Official Secrets Act, searched his home and locked him in a cell
of a local police station before questioning him (again with no
Home Office police force officers present.)
At the same time, and under similar circumstances,
with no Home Office police officers present, MDP plain clothes
officers arrested and searched the home of Nigel Wylde in Surrey.
Nigel Wylde is a former army officer who had been employed in
work under contract for the MoD but is also a civilian.
No MoD documents relating to the allegations
were found in the searches.
A year later, the case against Tony Geraghty
was dropped on the instructions of the Attorney General.
23 months later, the case against Nigel Wylde
was dropped, also on the instructions of the Attorney General.
Defence costs were awarded against the Crown. The defence casethat
no damage to security or military capability had been casued by
Tony Geraghty's book or Nigel Wylde's alleged disclosures was
(It should be noted that a few weeks before
the MDP raid on Geraghty and Wylde, the MDP had also carried out
raids in November 1998 on the homes of two former Gulf War veterans
(then civilians) investigating the alleged theft of a medical
report on the Gulf War syndrome. No charges have resulted.)
Significantly, the Home Office Circular of 1999,
(HOC 17/1999) referred to above makes the following points in
4.(1) When MoD police officers are exercising
their lawful powers of arrest and search outside places specified
in section (2) of the MoD Police Act 1987, the Chief Constable
MoD Police will ensure prior consultation with the local Chief
Constable before such powers are exercised. Where circumstances
of extreme urgency preclude such consultation the local Chief
Constable will be notified of the event as soon as possible.
(2) Outside the places described in section
2(1) of the MoD Police Act 1987, Ministry of Defence Police do
not have any constabulary powers not specifically provided for
by section 2(1) of that Act. Therefore, any assistance to local
Home Office police forces can only take place as a consequence
of a prior request by a Home Office police officer. There
is no evidence that any such request or consultation took place
in the Geraghty/Wylde case.
The above are matters of fact and public record.
The conclusions drawn are as follows:
(1) The undertakings given by the minister,
Archie Hamilton, to the Commons in 1987 that serious crimes would
remain a matter for local Home Office police forces have already
been broken at least twice, in the cases of Geraghty and Wylde
and arguably also in the case of the Gulf veterans.
(2) The requirement to act in consultation
with local police forces was also broken at least twice. Ministry
of Defence Police acted on their own, against civilians, with
no local police officers present.
(3) In at least four cases (Geraghty, Wylde,
the Gulf War veterans) prosecutions were dropped or charges not
brought. In the Geraghty/Wylde cases this was because the prosecution
accepted that there was insufficient evidence. (In reality, everything
Wylde/Geraghty had allegedly disclosed had been published already
elsewhere.) This suggests a low standard of police work on the
part of MDP that casts some doubt on their competence in comparison
to Home Office police forces. Or alternatively, that good police
sense was overridden by the instructions of the MDP's employers,
the Ministry of Defence.
(4) Even under existing legislation, MDP
have taken action against civilians on the instructions of the
Ministry of Defence in regard to allegations of serious civilian
alleged crimes, in direct contravention of undertakings given
by a minister to Parliament.
(5) In the light of this, any proposed extensions
to the powers of the Ministry of Defence Police should be critically
examined and any ministerial assurances regarded with caution.
(5) The fact that MDP, as an agency, are
accountable to the Ministry of Defence and not to the Home Office
is an anomaly that must be tackled if they are to act in conjunction
with (or even as a substitute for) Home Office police forces as
set out in Section IV of the Armed Forces Bill.