Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 5

Memorandum from Lindis Percy (26 November 2001)

INTRODUCTION

  The submissions I make to the Defence Committee arise out of my deep concern involving the lack of public scrutiny and accountability of the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP). I am troubled by the proposal to extend the jurisdiction of the MDP. My deep concerns are based on many experiences I have had with the MDP generally involving the skills, practice, knowledge and professionalism of the MDP. I will give examples of some of my experiences with the MDP and the redress I have sought through the courts and Complaints and Discipline Department.

  I confine my submissions specifically to the MDP working on bases occupied and controlled by the United States of America in the UK. This is the area from which my experiences are drawn.

BACKGROUND

  I am a trained nurse, midwife and health visitor who has worked in the National Health Service (NHS) for nearly 30 years. I work part-time as a health visitor in Manningham, Bradford. In each area of qualification I have a strict code of practice as laid down by the United Kingdom Central Council (UKCC) for Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors in order to maintain high standards of practice and professionalism. I am answerable to this body; should I step outside the rules and regulations of the UKCC I will be brought in front of this body to account for my actions. This is absolutely necessary in the interests, safety and protection of the general public and the profession.

  In the late 70s I was awakened to the issue of weapons of mass destruction in general and nuclear weapons in particular. Try as I might, and listening to both sides of the argument I could not understand (and am not persuaded) why it was apparently necessary to continue to specifically develop, possess and possibly deploy nuclear weapons. I could not equate this with bringing up three children, with my beliefs as a Quaker and also working as a midwife at the time at Southampton General Hospital.

PUBLIC BODIES

  Having been brought up in a fine family, I was taught that I could expect from those `in authority' a high standard of professionalism and practice. The rules and regulations laid down to protect the general public from abuse or malpractice would be strictly adhered to and if not, those in violation of those codes would be speedily brought to account. Furthermore any bad practices or mistakes would be rectified and lessons learnt. This would be seen as a positive development for the authority concerned and would apply to those in public office; but more particularly to the police force.

  I had no reason to believe otherwise, having had few experiences with the police. The experiences I had later were with the Home Department Police Force (HDPF) when working as a health visitor, particularly in the area of child protection work. I have always been extremely impressed by the skills, dedication and care of the officers involved in this work. As a health visitor, I have been summoned several times to give evidence in court.

  This was the extent of my experiences of the police, until I became aware of the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP), serving on US bases in the UK due to my commitment to work towards the abolition of weapons of mass destruction in general and nuclear weapons in particular.

SYSTEMS AND STRUCTURES

  Out of these experiences I have also had many dealings with the MDP in the courts at all level of the legal system (except the House of Lords) and through the Complaints and Discipline Department. I have used the systems and structures (democratic, legal and political processes) available to the citizen to raise my concerns. In my experience these processes invariably fail the citizen in the area at issue—the Ministry of Defence Police.

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE POLICE

  I believed that the MDP were subjected to the same public scrutiny and accountability as the Home Department Police Force.

  Indeed MDP officers often tell me that this is so.

  Having researched the control, jurisdiction and accountability of the MDP I know that this is not the case and the checks and balances afforded to the HDPF do not apply to the MDP.

  I will give a few examples of concern:

    —  the MDP are not accountable to an elected Police Authority.

    —  The MDP often seek dispensation from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) from investigating a complaint by a member of the public. The HDPF have to investigate all complaints.

    —  The courts (Magistrates' court and appeal to the Crown Court) convicted an MDP officer for assaulting me while in custody. The officer returned to duty with no action taken. He continues to be involved in cases concerning myself.

    —  A complaint of assault by an MDP officer was substantiated by the PCA. The officer was promptly promoted from Sergeant to Inspector.

    —  MDP officers have continued to manipulate and abuse the law of military land byelaws knowing that a general direction `not to go further' after arrest had been given.

    —  Asking questions of an MDP officer concerning military land byelaws often results in an uncivil and rude response e.g. `what's it got to do with you'—`no comment'—`I'm not entering into any discussion about the byelaws'—`it's nothing to do with me'.

    —  Many MDP officers do not know the extent of their jurisdiction now.

    —  Many MDP officers have a serious lack of knowledge of the law.

    —  MDP officers often show ignorance, arrogance and contempt for members of the public who ask questions concerning the interpretation and application of the law they are using.

    —  Letters to bring to the attention of the senior police officers some of these malpractices are ignored or not acted upon. There is often no meaningful redress for the citizen.

    —  There is an obvious lack of training, discipline and civility to members of the public (video evidence should the Committee require).

    —  The MDP are an Agency and tender their services to a Visiting Force which has serious implications for the British citizen.

CONCLUSION

  I have given a few examples of concern regarding the MDP. The MDP are not accountable in the same way as the HDPF. They operate as a secretive and unaccountable police force, not open to public scrutiny. There has been a serious manipulation of the law (military land byelaws) which has been covered up by the MDP over many years.

  I am deeply concerned that there is a proposal to extend the jurisdiction of the MDP. Before this is contemplated there needs to be fundamental change to bring this police force to account. There needs to be a radical improvement in the quality of recruitment, training and practice before any extension of jursidiction is granted. This police force seriously lacks the checks and balances in place as for the HDPF, to ensure that the general public is protected in a meaningful way from abuses and malpractice.

  I expect and demand the highest standards of professionalism from the police force. I expect truth and integrity in public affairs, particularly from the police. I demand this as a citizen from a public body who are charged to uphold the law, protect life and property and enforce the law. I also expect a system of checks and balances as demanded in my profession to apply to the MDP. The credibility of the MDP is seriously undermined by not having such a system in place.


 
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