Cathedral cops will soon regain the power to arrest wrongdoers

Cathedral cops will soon regain the power to arrest wrongdoers February 19, 2017

At a ceremony due to take place later this year, York Minster’s police force will be given full police powers.
According to this report, although it is a private police force, the Minster’s eight-strong squad of officers has undergone specialist training and that, for the first time almost 80 years, will have the power to arrest miscreants.
The new powers were formally recognised in a memorandum of understanding signed by the Dean of York, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, and Superintendent Adam Thompson, above, on behalf of the Chapter of York and the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police.
Reporting for Law & Religion UK, David Pocklington pointed out that:

Although not as well-known as the Swiss Guard, the Minster Police have served York Minster for many hundreds of years. These and other cathedral constables were created under common law rather than statutory legislation.
Between 1285 and 1839 York Minster had its own Liberty – the “Liberty of Saint Peter and Peter Prison” – which was the walled area which enclosed the Minster Close. Within the Liberty, the Dean and Chapter of York Minster held jurisdiction, and were able to appoint constables. These officers, similar to parish constables, maintained law and order. Over time, the Liberty, which covered an area equating to a third of the medieval City of York, had its own coroners, justices of the peace, bailiffs and a prison.
The Liberty constable may well have also administered some of punishments handed out by the court. Officers certainly equipped themselves with an array of weapons, some possibly used to mete out summary justice. The Minster Police have in their possession a flail, said to have belonged to a Mr J Strutt, the Liberty Constable in 1713.

Established in the 13th century, the Minster Police constabulary is thought to be the oldest continuing police service in the country.
It is a forerunner of the modern police force established by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. The Minster’s cathedral constables were sworn in as constables until the 1930s, when they ceased to be attested.
Head of security Mark Sutcliffe said:

York Minster is one of only seven cathedrals in the world to maintain its own police force, which has played an important role in the rich history of the Minster for hundreds of years.
We have worked closely alongside North Yorkshire Police for many years to keep the Minster and the people who visit it from around the world safe.

The York Minster police in 2010. Photograph © York Minster on Flickr

Any arrested people will be handed over to the regular police for transport and processing and the force will be responsible for the submission of prosecution files.
The powers will formally come into effect when the eight cathedral constables and head of security are sworn in at a ceremony to be held at York Minster in the spring.
They will join officers from Canterbury, Liverpool and Chester who have the same powers in their respective cathedral and precincts.
The seven cathedrals in the world which maintain their own constabulary are York Minster, Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral; Canterbury Cathedral; Hereford Cathedral; Chester Cathedral; the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano, (ie St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome); and Washington’s National Cathedral (USA). The Swiss Guard is a small force maintained by the Holy See, and is responsible for the safety of the Pope, including the security of the Apostolic Palace.
Pockington noted:

Today’s eight Minister Police do not routinely carry handcuffs and truncheons, as incidents of public order are rare. Their uniform is less flamboyant than that of the Swiss Guards, (the design of which is popularly attributed to Michelangelo), and is similar to their Home Office colleagues; they have all completed the Level 3 Certificate in Cathedral Constable Attestation, and are also trained in first aid.

Hat tip: Ernest Jackson

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  • barriejohn

    Will transgressors be sent to Hell?

  • Newspaniard

    Have they full powers to burn heretics at the stake?

  • Angela_K

    I didn’t know that York Minster was such a hotbed of crime requiring so many hobby-bobbies. It would be interesting to see if somebody gets arrested for saying to one of these god-plods that everything in the bible is a load of tosh. We certainly need proper separation of church and state. I know from an ex-plod friend that the UK police force is riddled with god-bots and the dodgy handshake brigade.

  • Tim

    As a point of fact, Hereford Cathedral does not maintain its own constabulary. The post of Close constable (essentially a security guard) did once exist, but was abolished in 2014.

  • barriejohn

    Angela_K: Right on both counts. My brother-in-law was a bobby, and spoke of the appalling Masonry influence in the force, and, when I was a lad, the Hampshire Police Choir (male voice, I believe), used to turn up at various evangelical events and crusades, singing Christian songs. I think those days are over now, but not so elsewhere, obviously:

  • barriejohn

    Anyone else old enough to remember this?
    PS I do hope that these new cops won’t be getting up to the same sort of shenanigans that the Swiss Guard have (allegedly) been engaging in.

  • Corvus

    I wonder how much herbalife you have to sell to get the title Very Rev.

  • Daz

    What did I do? Fell asleep in my pew, now I’m busted.
    Turned to the wrong hymn ’cause the light was so dim—I’m busted.
    They sent round the plate and I put in ten pounds,
    Took out a five as the cop turned around.
    I said “It’s my change” but now I’m in the pound and I’m busted.

  • Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Will Quasimodo be safe in the belfry? “You gave me water” Sweet. Faull….Pocklington….such strange names these people have…..Some composers whose works I admire committed foul deeds and crimes in various churches and monasteries: Jehan de l’Escurel was executed in 1304 for having raped a nun; Nicolas Gombert was sentenced to the galleys (or is it gallies) for molesting choirboys; Magister Zacharias was questioned by the inquisition; William Child was beaten by a choirmaster; and another 17th Century composer whose name I forget was beaten to death at night outside the church door. Eek! So, bearing all these horrors in mind, perhaps the existence of the Minster Police is to be applauded. Time for another pink gin. Have the clocks gone forward yet? The madness never ends.

  • Matt

    Who is paying the cost for this rather unnecessary bunch of hobbycops? And what do they do?

  • remigius

    Catherdal police = Archaic leet plod.
    Seems rather apt as ‘leet’ is a Medieval English word for an area under special jurisdiction.

  • Daz

    Matt, given they’re described as a private force, I would assume the church pays for them. As to what they do: basically, they’re a security watch. Sez wikipedia:

    “Following the Minster fire in 1829, the Chapter of the cathedral ordered that “‘Henceforward a watchman/constable shall be employed to keep watch every night in and about the cathedral”, and bemoaned the lack of one previously.”

    Thinkin’ on it, an eight-strong security force seems, if anything, small for 24/7 coverage of a quite extensive site, which houses a large-ish collection of historical artefacts, books and so forth.

  • In short order, one or more other religious groups in England will claim that it is discrimination that the York Ministers have these powers and they do not. Not wishing to offend or be seen as discriminatory, England will grant other religious groups these powers. Then the sharia patrols will move England that much closer to their vision of how things should be.
    Goodbye, England. You did it to yourself.

  • Daz

    It still is. Laxton in Notts still has a Court Leet.

  • barriejohn

    Daz: Security patrols do not generally have the same powers as police. This is a dangerous step.

  • Daz

    They only have the power of arrest within the grounds of York Minster, as those in Canterbury, Liverpool and Chester already do in their respective precincts. And, so far as I can tell, they only have power to do so for offences under the common law, not for any kind of offences against religious doctrine or practice.
    It’s an amusing story, but I don’t really see any kind of slippery slope here.

  • denis.craik

    This is very timely. The Dean recently sacked all the bellringers on very spurious grounds when it was, most probably, a power struggle. So the godbobbies are ready to arrest any of the bell-ringers who dare to set foot in the place.

  • remigius

    Daz, yep – private police forces in the UK are funded by their owners. Until recently many London parks had their own private forces – with full police powers.
    And then there is the wonderfully named Civil Nuclear Police, who have full police powers within 5km of any nuclear site. They are mainly financed and run by a consortium of American and French energy companies.
    “Thinkin’ on it, an eight-strong security force seems, if anything, small…”
    Contrast this with the City of London Police. Over 700 officers and 400 support staff covering an area of just 700 acres. If Somerset had the same ratio it would need nearly 1.5 million cops and staff.

  • Daz

    Not to mention the British Transport Police, which is 95% privately funded by the train companies.

  • Angela_K

    “If Somerset had the same ratio it would need nearly 1.5 million cops and staff.” I wish, the only time you see a copper in my Somerset village is if he has a speed camera thingy in his hand. And not surprisingly the village worthies who man the community speedwatch is headed by a mason [not the stone type] and a cabal of churchy types.

  • L.Long

    Now you know how much the religious dimwits have faith in their psychotic gawd and is BS plan!!! It is strang how they need arms and gov’mint, & private armies to care for them

  • Alan Crowe

    It makes you wonder why god can’t look after these places herself,
    Oh hang on a mo…….Fucking arsewipes!

  • John

    There has been a moratorium on bell ringing at York Minster due to what have been called safeguarding issues.
    Presumably, the announcement of new church police at York Minster is designed to act as a trailer for any bad news that may emerge shortly.
    There are other police forces in existence: military police and CID being yet another one to those named above.
    One thing we need to be alert to is any attempt to restore legal powers to church courts, which still remain in place.

  • barriejohn

    I don’t think that anyone is objecting to Railway Police or RAF Police, but I can certainly see certain other groups thinking that they might like their own police force as well, following the publicity given to this development! (I also agree about the irony of “people of faith” wanting special protection, like their own private police force, or even insurance. Tells you all you need to know.)

  • John

    Yet another outfit to be concerned about is Community Security Trust ( who – in collaboration with local police forces – provide private security for synagogues and other Jewish social places.
    If we end up with the Muslims asking for similar arrangements then the day of having religious police patrolling the public streets and other public places in Britain will have arrived.
    Then – just like the Islamic Republic of Iran – we will have turned into the Religious Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    Maybe it is time for all secularists to learn a lesson from the zionists and to demand a secular homeland along the lines of the Balfour Declaration?
    Where – on the planet Earth – could such a secular homeland be located, I wonder?

  • AgentCormac

    Take your pick from the following.
    Here are six of the most atheist countries in the world, not including Norway (although why it doesn’t include Norway is a bit of a mystery to me):
    Czech Republic

  • L.Long

    What is the definition of wrong doing????
    Even if the courts don’t back it up, they will still have the power to make your life miserable if you just say Fuck jesus! on the property, as that would be considered wrong doing by these dimwits!

  • gedediah

    Religious police. Isn’t that what they have in Saudi Arabia and Iran? What could go wrong I wonder?

  • John

    AgentCormac: On ease of language grounds, I imagine Australia is probably the best place for all English-speaking secularists on the planet to migrate to.
    However, is that not the country that has spawned Cardinal Pell – and massive child abuse – see ?

  • Daz

    Allow me to reiterate.
    These are not religious police. They have no power to arrest people for offences against religious doctrine or practice. Nor is this a new thing. Several other major cathedrals already have forces which have such powers, as do various other privately funded forces, ranging from the largest, the aforementioned British Transport Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary, through the forces of various ports and airports, to the smallest, such as those at Kew Gardens and Cambridge University.
    There is a debate to be had on this, for anyone worried about the existence of privately funded forces with police powers—though it should be noted that none of these forces, as far as I’ve been able to discover, have the power of arrest outside their designated precincts or for actions which are not crimes under the common law. More worrying, perhaps, is the fact that the Home Office do not appear to have any kind of definitive list of such forces. But the assertions of “religious policing” and of a consequent slippery slope to “sharia police” are, as far as several hours of research on my part can discover, bunkum.

  • remigius

    Daz, “…none of these forces, as far as I’ve been able to discover, have the power of arrest outside their designated precincts or for actions which are not crimes under the common law.”
    In England and Wales any person has power of arrest, whether a police officer or not. They don’t even have to be a British citizen. The only stipulation is that the offence committed must be indictable. The relevant legislation is Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s24a.

  • Daz

    True, but there are limitations. It has to be for an indictable offence. And a private citizen can’t arrest someone “on suspicion of…” for instance, or for stirring up racial or religious hatred. Police officers are also more strongly protected against allegations of false arrest.

  • remigius

    “And a private citizen can’t arrest someone “on suspicion of…”
    Oh yes they can. A person other than a constable may arrest without a warrant…
    s24a1(b) – ‘anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an indictable offence.’
    s24a2(b) – ‘anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of it.’

  • Daz

    My mistake. I’d gained the impression that citizen’s arrest was only allowed in light of actual knowledge rather than suspicion.

  • Brian Jordan

    It’s a good job these cops weren’t empowered at the time of the late heretical Bishop Jenkins -here’s no knowing what punishment they’d have exacted. As it was, Yahweh had to make do with sending a thunderbolt after his ordination, instead.
    As for the Minster itself, you need to go inside to feel the full horror of the extortion and conscription of the peasantry that must have facilitated its construction.

  • Personally, I think that middle-class joggers should be arrested. Whenever they pitter-patter past me, I find myself reaching for an imaginary flame-thrower.