Select Committee on Defence First Report


16. In the Explanatory Notes to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the Government says that: 'The limitations on the jurisdiction of the force have been reviewed in the light of the threat of terrorism and of the changed deployment pattern of the MDP', which 'include the increased use of mobile patrols, involving movement between defence establishments and bringing MDP officers more into contact with the public than previously.'[28] The Bill would effect a number of changes in the MDP's jurisdiction which are similar to those proposed in the Armed Forces Bill:

  the present power of MDP officers to act 'in the vicinity of defence land' would be replaced by the power to act in relation to a particular incident, investigation or operation where assistance is requested by another force. They would not be restricted to the vicinity of defence land.[29]

  The MDP's powers would be extended to enable them to deal with offences committed against defence personnel as well as by them (but only in respect of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Acts).[30]

  MDP officers coming across an incident outside the defence estate currently only have the same powers as an ordinary citizen to deal with it, and can only make a citizen's arrest. The Bill's proposals would give the power to an MDP officer in uniform (or having proof of being an officer) to act, without a request from a Home Department officer, if he reasonably believes that waiting would jeopardise the purpose of his action, in circumstances where he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence is about to be, is being, or has been, committed or where action is necessary to save life or prevent injury.[31] This proposal differs from the one contained in the Armed Forces Bill in that the powers given here are broader: in the previous Bill action was limited to offences which had been committed and which involved the use or threat of violence.

  Clause 98 provides that the Chief Constable of the MDP may, in response to a request from another chief police officer, provide MDP officers to assist other police forces when they require extra resources to meet a 'special burden' or a 'special demand' on them. When fulfilling this role, the Bill provides for MDP officers to come under the direction of the chief officer of the force they are serving with and to have the full powers of a constable at that time, without any of the limits on jurisdiction which would normally apply to an MDP officer.[32]

17. There are some further proposals which were not included in the Armed Forces Bill clauses but which are in the Anti-Terrorism Bill to deal specifically with terrorism issues:

  The MDP would have the power, in certain circumstances, to designate areas in which cordons can be erected in connection with a terrorist investigation. A uniformed constable will be able to order a person or vehicle to leave the cordoned area and adjacent areas, to remove vehicles from the area, and to restrict access to the area.[33]

  The MDP would have the power, in certain circumstances, to specify areas or places in which, for up to 28 days, MDP officers can stop and search vehicles, their occupants and pedestrians for the prevention of terrorism. An assistant chief constable, or higher grade, can authorise any uniformed constable to undertake these procedures; the Secretary of State must confirm such orders within 48 hours.[34]

28  Explanatory Notes to the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, paragraph 237 Back

29  ibid, paragraphs 240 and 242 Back

30  ibid, paragraph 241; see also Q 27 Back

31  ibid, paragraph 243 Back

32  ibid, paragraph 244 Back

33  ibid, paragraph 257. This power only applies to the defence estate, unless MDP officers are responding to requests from local police forces-See Schedule 7 to the Bill. See also Q 20. Back

34  ibid, paragraph 258. This power only applies to the defence estate, unless MDP officers are responding to requests from local police forces-See Schedule 7 to the Bill. Back

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Prepared 6 December 2001