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1. What is the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence Police?
The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) derives its powers to operate as a policing organisation from the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987, as amended by the Anti-Terrorist Crime and Security Act 2001.
Within the jurisdiction defined by the MOD Police Act 1987, MDP officers have the full powers and privileges of constables, identical to other civil police officers in the UK. The jurisdiction of MDP officers covers:
land and Property anywhere in the UK owned by, under the control of, used by, or providing services to(a) the Secretary of State for Defence (b) the ordnance companies (c) the dockyards (d) Visiting Forces (e) Crown property (f) within UK territorial waters and (g) any land where their provision has been agreed by the Secretary of State
individuals (a) employed by the Defence Council or Ministry of Defence, (b) subject to control by the Defence Council, and (c) Visiting Forces
- when providing mutual aid to any police force
- when witnessing any suspected criminal act or to save life and minimise personal injury
MDP jurisdiction was extended by the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in some significant respects.
MDP officers may now exercise police powers where a local police force requests the assistance of MDP officers. This is most likely to be in support of defence related tasks; major civil emergencies; or the provision of specialist policing capabilities, such as marine policing. Where such assistance is provided, Ministry of Defence Police officers will be under the operational control of the local Chief Constable from the requesting force, and will have the same police powers as officers of that force.
Second, an MDP officer may exercise police powers to deal with emergency situations where he/she is in uniform, or in possession of documentary evidence of membership of the MDP, and has “reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence is about to be committed, is being committed or has been committed, or “…reasonably believes that action is necessary to save life or prevent or minimise injury.”
Third, a senior MDP officer may authorise MDP officers to carry out stop and search operations under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (which allows these powers to be exercised at random, without the need for reasonable suspicion). These exceptional powers are however subject to prior authorisation for a specific area and period of time by the Home Secretary. These powers are not exercised at the present time.
The primary objective of the extended jurisdiction is to assist in the prevention of terrorism and to provide an effective police response to terrorist incidents or suspected acts of terrorism.
2. Policing protocols with other forces
Local agreements with Home Office police forces (or with Police Scotland) are made between the MDP Chief Constable and other chief constables. These set out the agreed working relationship between MDP and other police forces, outlining where necessary areas of responsibility and accountability.
The protocols make provision for consultation and co-operation between the forces, with the aim of delivering the best policing on the ground.
3. Why are there MDP officers serving overseas?
The MOD requirement for the MDP directs the Chief Constable to provide specialist civil policing aid to defence and other international policing commitments in support of UK government policy.
Over the past 15 years, MDP officers have served in various international missions overseas, representing about one third of the UK international policing contribution. Officers have been deployed to the Balkans, Iraq, Georgia, Afghanistan and several other post-conflict zones under arrangements managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The role of the officers is to train and mentor the local indigenous police.
The provision of civilian police officers to peacekeeping missions is a valuable way of fostering international relations and honouring treaty requirements, as well as promoting best practice in fledgling democracies, encouraging trade, dealing with international crime, and helping reduce poverty by promoting internal security.