Select Committee on Armed Forces Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from the General Secretary of the Police Federation of England and Wales to the Police Resources Unit, Home Office, 25 September 2000


  I refer to my letter to you of 1st August.

  The proposals have now been considered by my National Committee who are not prepared to support them.

  Our reasons are two-fold:

    (a)  There is an insufficient business case made out for the amendments; and

    (b)  There are material legal and other problems that would arise if these proposals were implemented.


  1.  We remain to be convinced that there is a genuine need for extending the jurisdiction of MDP officers.

  2.  Much of the justification for the proposal rests on what is described in your papers as the "not unreasonable expectation by the public that an MDP officer, who holding the office of constable, because of the similarity of MDP uniform and livery to those of home department forces . . ., will intervene in situations where necessary to prevent injury or to anticipate violence".

  3.  No tangible evidence has been provided of this "not unreasonable expectation". If it arises at all then the paper appears to suggest that it arises from the increased activity by MDP officers outside their normal sphere which "is partly a consequence of MDP having adopted a system of mobile patrols which travel between MoD sites, bringing their officers into greater contact with the public than formerly". However, travelling on public roads, in order to get from one MoD base to another does not in itself lead to MDP officers in the execution of their duties having an inevitable interface with the public.

  4.  Further, there are good reasons why the public, if they knew the full position, would object to an extension of MDP jurisdiction.

  5.  First, MDP officers do not have relevant experience. The Federation does not consider that MDP have an appropriate approach to recruitment nor do their officers have the appropriate training to encourage appropriate interface with the public. Such considerations being borne out within the Home Office submission.

  6.  The paper itself acknowledges that "MDP is a specialist force". The paper poses the question further:

    "It is necessary also to consider how far MDP officers have the opportunity to put their training regularly into practice in order to develop the necessary expertise to deal with the same range of situations and offences dealt with on a daily basis by home department force officers".

  If, as this implies MDP officers do not currently have the necessary expertise or experience, then, in our view, it is clearly inappropriate that their jurisdiction be extended in a manner which would expose the public to officers who have not been appropriately trained or officers who do not have the appropriate level of experience.

  7.  Secondly, many MDP officers are armed. The question is, justifiably, raised in the paper as to "can we be sure that members of the public and indeed undercover police officers, will not be put at risk by armed intervention by MDP officers?" It is suggested that there would be some comfort by the fact that the MDP Chief Constable must notify the local Chief Constable whenever it is intended that MDP officers are to be engaged in armed duty on public roads; the conclusion being (paragraph 29) that local forces would always know when MDP officers were carrying firearms. It would counsel perfection to anticipate that notice to a local Chief Constable would necessarily mean that all members of that force would then be aware that the MDP officers would then be armed. Whereas the paper suggests that the MDP Chief Constable has "assured the Home Office and the Scottish Executive that MDP officers would use firearms off base only at the request of a local force" the danger of armed MDP officers using firearms in circumstances where they were to come across an incident off base cannot be ruled out and indeed if there was any question of others being armed, then no doubt MDP officers may not be slow to use their own arms.

  8.  Thirdly, a potential justification arises from statistics suggesting that in about one incident per MDP officer per year, there may be a requirement for these powers to be used. In view of the thousands of police incidents reported each day, we do not consider that this is a significant problem to be resolved by the proposed legislative change.

  9.  A fourth and very significant reason why we consider that the public would be unhappy with such a proposal is that the MDP remains a civilian force overseen by an MoD Police Committee and the Defence Secretary as opposed to the Home Secretary and separate and accountable chief officers and police authorities. It is, in short not so publicly accountable and for that reason the powers should be appropriately limited to MoD related matters alone.

  10.  We are concerned, further, that the proposal to extend jurisdiction should follow what we understand to be a down-sizing of the size of the police force by the deployment of guardforce officers. We will be concerned, as we have before, that a proposal of this nature is being made with an element of self preservation rather than because of the genuine need to extend the jurisdiction (which from current press debates, appears already to be uncertain to most MDP officers).

  11.  Insofar as proposal (a) in part 2 is concerned, the Federation does not support the establishment of a power on the part of a Chief Constable of a home department force to allow for MDP officers generally to provide assistance "on land in the vicinity of Defence land". As outlined above, MDP officers are not trained specifically to deal with the public nor is their experience in that area. There are, further, inappropriate protections for the public as outlined above (and indeed unresolved legal issues as detailed below).

  12.  The Joint Central Committee also reject the proposal (b) in part 2 for similar reasons, as this would in effect mean that MDP officers will be operating on the streets of England and Wales as an alternative police service, in any part of the country, simply on the basis that, for instance, a defence personnel may have been a victim.

  13.  So far as proposal (c) of part 2 is concerned, we are not convinced that there is any reason why there is a need to extend the existing arrangements.

  14.  Insofar as proposal (d) of part 2 is concerned, again, the Federation is not convinced that there is any compelling reason why the existing arrangements should be altered.


  15.  Where an MDP officer is involved in providing assistance to an officer of, say, the Sussex Constabulary or is dealing with an emergency within the Sussex constabulary (but not having been able to obtain authority of that force to do so), then to whom is that member accountable? The Sussex Force or the MDP Force?

  16.  If the actions of such an officer in providing a service to the public were alleged to be racially discriminatory, contrary to the Race Relations Act (as to be amended), then which Chief Constable would be responsible? The Chief Constable of the MDP (on the basis that the MDP officer is a member of that force) or the Chief Constable of Sussex (on the basis of the actions were undertaken either at the request of the Sussex Force, or within the Sussex force area in dealing with an emergency that would otherwise have been dealt with by that force).

  17.  In the situation outlined at paragraph 15 above, which complaints procedures would apply if a member of the public concerned wished to complain about the conduct of the MDP officer?

  18.  There has already been press coverage of potential extensive claims for wrongful arrest/false imprisonment arising from the possible failure on the part of the MoD to ensure that members of their force have been appropriately attested. Claims for false imprisonment or wrongful arrest might also form the example given at paragraph 15. Who would be liable? It is not entirely clear that in either instance, the MDP officer would be "under the direction and control" of the Chief Officer of Sussex. The issue may also arise as to whether or not the pre-condition to exercise the powers of a Constable had been satisfied. The issue may be: had an appropriate request been made by the MDP officer for support or, further, whether the MDP officer was dealing with an emergency and/or should the officer have been able to obtain authority from the local force.

  19.  In the example given, is it intended that the MoD provide appropriate insurance cover for the officers acting either at the request of the home department police force, or dealing with an emergency (with which the Home Office Force should normally deal), or will this be a matter covered by the Sussex Force Policy (notwithstanding the absence of any control or direction available).

  In these circumstances and for all these reasons, the Federation remains of the view that jurisdiction of MDP officers should not be extended and therefore we would object to the proposals.

Jeff Moseley

General Secretary

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 19 March 2001