Police officers wield unique and significant powers in society, and it is right to have oversight of those powers to prevent misconduct and deal with issues if they arise. Since its introduction in 2004, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), has provided that oversight to our civilian police, and in doing so has improved police operations and public relations across the country.
However, the various branches of the military police, including the Royal Airforce Police, Royal Military Police and Royal Navy Police, currently have similar powers as the civilian police, but without any independent scrutiny. My amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill this week, supported by Liberty, would change that, and give the IPCC the ability to scrutinise military police as well.
The existing discrepancy means that when mistakes happen during investigations, there is no vehicle for victims or their families to ask questions or raise their concerns.
Just last week the Royal Military Police finally apologised for the mishandling of the case of Anne Marie Ellement, who was sexually assaulted by two of her colleagues, but had her claims dismissed and the case closed. Anne Marie later took her own life, and only after her family threatened legal action was the case reopened and two individuals were eventually prosecuted for the assault.
Mistakes can happen in any organisation. Both intentionally and unintentionally, bias or prejudice can creep in and blinkers can prevent the truth from being seen as it really is. Even if no mistakes were made, without external scrutiny many will not believe that to be the case. This means that errors or corruption cannot be addressed and that honest officers cannot be validated.
The National Crime Agency, the British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence Police, the UK Border Agency, Police and Crime Commissioners, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs all fall within the jurisdiction of the IPCC. It is deeply unfair that the same oversight does not extend to other military police.
This measure should have cross-party support. Theresa May eloquently made the case for the IPCC in Parliament over many years, recently stating: "Where the actions of a minority fall short of the high standards that the public are entitled to expect, there need to be arrangements in place so that the conduct in question can be properly looked into." Those serving in the armed forces shouldn't have to fight for equal treatment under the law, and today I am calling on the government to end this injustice.