Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Ministry of Defence


  1.  This memorandum is submitted by the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP), the MoD's own dedicated civilian police force.

  2.  Under the 1987 Ministry of Defence Police Act, MDP officers have the powers of a police constable, but-broadly speaking—only on defence land or in respect of the actions of defence personnel. In addition they had constabulary powers when requested to act by an officer from a Home Department Police Force (HDPF) "in the vicinity" of defence land. The problem was that these powers left MDP officers unable to act in an emergency if confronted by serious criminal acts off defence land, and failed to define the term "in the vicinity". Nor did they have powers to deal with offences against defence personnel off defence land.

  3.  To remedy these areas of confusion, and following lengthy Home Office consultation, proposals were developed for inclusion in the Quinquennial Armed Forces Bill 2001. However the General Election resulted in some parts of the Armed Forces Bill including the MDP sections being dropped to enable the legislation to go through before the end of that Parliament. After the Election, an alternative legislative vehicle was sought. The enhanced terrorist threat post September 11th increased the need to close gaps and remove uncertainty in MDP jurisdiction if the force were to contribute effectively in the fight against terrorism. The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security (ATCS) Bill was seen as appropriate legislation through which to do this.

  4.  The ATCS provisions cover broadly the same areas as those included in the Armed Forces Bill with the inclusion of some additional powers directly related to the terrorist threat. It is Part 10 (Police Powers) of the ATCS Act 2001 that provides MDP Officers, and British Transport Police, with additional powers.

5.  Sections 98-101 provide five principal changes to the jurisdiction of MDP. They are:

    —  Requests for MDP officers to assist an officer from another police force.

    —  Emergency situations.

    —  Mutual Aid to other police forces.

    —  Defence personnel as victims.

    —  Authorisations under the Terrorism Act 2000.

  6.  In general, Section 98 extends MDP jurisdiction to non-defence land when requested by a local HDPF officer (or British Transport Police or UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary) to assist in relation to an incident, investigation or operation. It means MDP Officers have the same powers and privileges as constables of HDPF at these times. MDP jurisdiction is also extended in emergency situations, where an officer suspects on reasonable grounds a person of committing, being in the course of committing or about to commit an offence or in order to save life or prevent or minimise personal injury. This can only be done where officers are in uniform, or can produce documentary evidence confirming that they are members of the MDP, and where it is reasonably believed that delay in securing the attendance of a HDPF officer would frustrate or seriously prejudice the reason for exercising the power.

  7.  Section 99 allows the Chief Constable of the MDP to provide assistance to other police forces, through Mutual Aid, at the request of the respective chief officer. In such circumstances members of the MDP are under the direction and control of the chief officer of the requesting force and have the same powers and privileges as a member of that force.

  8.  Section 98 extends the jurisdiction of MDP officers enabling them to act when Defence personnel are victims of crime. Prior to the ATCS Act 2001 the MoD Police Act 1987 restricted jurisdiction to offences committed by Defence personnel.

  9.  Section 101 refers to Schedule 7 and allows MDP ACPO officers to grant authorisations under the Terrorism Act 2000, ie powers to stop & search on MoD land. It also allows MDP Superintendents and above the power to designate a cordoned area in connection with a terrorist investigation either on defence land or when acting "on request".

  10.  It is important to note that the ATCS Act 2001 repeals the powers in the MoD Police Act 1987 enabling the force to assist Home Department Forces in defined circumstances. Therefore, without the Act of 2001, MDP would be unable to exercise police powers in support of other police, either in terrorist or non-terrorist situations.


  11.  When officers use ATCS Act 2001 powers, each incident is reported. Monthly statistics are collated and monitored by the Chief Constable of the MDP. The use of the new legislation is also reported to the MDP Police Committee and the Home Office. On average, MDP provide assistance to HDPFs approximately 130 times per month using constabulary powers on approximately one third of these occasions.

  12.  Many reported incidents are initially suspected of being terrorist related but on further investigation turn out not to be so. MDP officers have also responded to many incidents involving suspect vehicles and packages that were initially thought to be terrorist/security related but which have been resolved satisfactorily.

  13.  The enhancements to MDP jurisdiction through the ATCS Act 2001 has enabled MDP officers to work more closely with other police forces. While working relationships with HDPF forces have always been very good, the extended jurisdiction has allowed MDP officers to participate proactively with them, particularly in respect of anti-terrorist operations. For example, joint North Yorkshire Police/MDP armed mobile patrols are conducted around sensitive sites including RAF Menwith Hill and RAF Fylingdales. MDP officers also assist Suffolk Police with patrols and roadblocks around the US base at RAF Lakenheath.

  14.  The Terrorism Act 2000—powers to stop and search and the powers to cordon areas in connection with a terrorist investigation, granted in Schedule 7 of the ATCS Act 2001, have only been used in conjunction with authorisations granted by HDPFs. These incidents are statistically reported by the respective HDPF. An authorisation to stop and search means that any MDP officer in uniform may stop a vehicle or pedestrian in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and he/she may search the vehicle, occupants or pedestrian in an area, or at a place specified in the authorisation and he/she may search the pedestrian as well as anything carried by the individual. The stop and search powers enacted under Terrorism legislation must only be used for the purpose of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism, and may be exercised whether or not the constable has any grounds for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind. Where a constable proposes, he or she may detain the person for such time as is reasonably required to permit the search to be carried out, at or near the place where the person is stopped.

  15.  The MDP's use of the powers granted under the ATCS Act 2001 has been proportionate to the terrorist threat and has allowed MDP officers to work with, and respond to, requests from HDPFs in the wider policing and security environment. The powers have given MDP the ability to contribute in the fight against the terrorist threat through proactive security policing outside the immediate confines of the defence estate, and indeed, to deal with other crimes in particular circumstances. In the event of incidents involving possible injury to persons, and other potentially violent situations, MDP officers can now intervene with the knowledge that they have the full legal protection afforded to a constable.

  16.  We are aware of not a single case where Home Department police have taken issue with MDP's use of its new powers, and HDPF chief officers have welcomed the additional policing support that MDP is now able to provide. The joint working between forces is governed by Policing Protocols for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, which have been established and agreed with chief officers since the Act came into force. On the ground they are interpreted in a common-sense way, with the lead being taken by the Force that can make the quickest and most effective response. They will be revised in the near future to reflect the emphasis in the MDP's recent Quinquennial Review on the need for the Force to concentrate on "primary" crime—that is those risks of crime and disorder, which face the MoD.

July 2004

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