46. Unlike local police forces, all uniformed MDP
officers are firearms trained and weapons are more routinely carried
by MDP officers than by other forces. The Association of Chief
Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) voiced some concerns at the
time of the Armed Forces Bill about the implications of the carrying
of firearms if the MDP was to have more direct involvement with
the general public. They said then
... what we jealously guard in Scotland, and I am
sure our English and Welsh colleagues do, is the fact that we
do not routinely arm our police officers. What we do not want
is a situation whereby Ministry of Defence Police officers, who
I have already said to all intents and purposes are police officers
in the public eye, are seen to be routinely armed and coming out
of bases with arms on show to the public ... The overriding principle
must be that members of the public and indeed other police officers
will not be at risk by the armed intervention of MDP officers.
None of the proposals in the Armed Forces Bill would
have altered the arrangements for carrying firearms, and the Select
Committee were satisfied that the arrangements worked effectively.
They did, however, point to differences in the detail of the Scottish
Protocol compared with that for Home Department forces
and recommended that the revised Protocols should address the
matter of firearms 'specifically and in detail'.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill provisions do not directly affect the
MDP's use of firearms but, given the likely increased contact
with the general public, we were equally concerned to explore
the implications with witnesses.
47. The Assistant Chief Constable of the MDP assured
us that the force regards the possession of firearms as a serious
matter and that its firearms training is rigorous and regular.
The amount of training provided depends on the operational requirement
: there is a week's course for basic training in handguns; for
those officers who need to use rifles, a further two weeks' training
is given, with requalification required every three or four months.
All officers receive monthly handling and safety training.
As regards the transport of firearms, we were told that the MDP
never carries firearms in public areas without the prior written
agreement of the local police force; the only exception is when
MDP officers escort sensitive convoys, when there are well-established
procedures for liaising with other forces. If firearms are transported
between MDP bases, the weapons and ammunition are carried in separate
vehicles, in locked boxes.
48. The ACPO representative was satisfied with the
procedures in place to ensure local police forces were aware of
and content with the MDP's use and transportation of firearms.
He told us
I am completely convinced that when they move between
the sites the ammunition is in a separate vehicle from the weapon
... They travel separately.
And on MDP firearms training, ACPO are
... sufficiently confident in their firearms instructors
that one of them sits as part of our firearms training and advisory
group, and at more senior level [the MDP Chief Constable] sits
on ACPO's Terrorism Committee.
The MDP has also assisted in the re-writing of the
ACPO firearms manual.
49. The effectiveness of the MDP's firearms training
and procedures is demonstrated by their safety record. The MDP
have had 1.4 million loads and unloads of weapons in the past
year without a single negligent discharge:
we regard this as highly commendable and an achievement of
which the MDP can justifiably be proud.
154-I, Session 2000-01, op cit, paragraph 47 Back
Office circular 17/1999 states: 'The Chief Constable of the MDP
will give advance notification to the local Chief Constable whenever
it is intended that MDP officers are to be engaged in armed duty
on public roads' (paragraph 7). Scottish Police circular 14/1999
states: 'The MDP are legally entitled to possess firearms in the
course of their duties. However, where it is necessary for those
duties to extend beyond MoD property, the Chief Constable of the
MDP will discuss in advance with the local Chief Constable the
circumstances of those duties, and the arrangements for deployment,
security, method of carriage and rules of engagement in respect
of those firearms' (paragraph 7). See also Ev p 26 Back
154-I, Session 2000-01, op cit, paragraph 49 Back
58, 66 Back
59, 65 Back
99, 103 Back
58, 70-73 Back