“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
Today, let’s discuss the legal services department of Avon & Somerset Constabulary. It can only be guessed at why a Legal Services team now handles all enquiries about injury pensions, which include the police pension authority’s abuse of its power of discretion to review them, questions over interference in the SMP’s independent decision-making role, and many other matters of contention. But let us try to make sense of it.
A&S’s Daniel Johnson (Solicitor Advocate) and Shahzad Hamid who is a ‘caseworker’ have been busy sending what I can only call ‘one direction’ correspondence to those former officers caught up with this travesty. Its one direction because these two tell people they are involved, and say they are looking into matters but then clam up when asked when a response will be given. They then stop replying and retreat into silence. To reply would mean either lying, or telling the truth, and these legal eagles are too crafty to commit to either, for lying would inevitably bite the liar, and telling the truth would mean the force having to admit it is in the wrong.
Back in October 2014 several of the 16 being reviewed received this ominous email – yes email!, HR obviously had no uneasy feeling of doubt with disclosing personal email addresses to a 3rd party – from the two protagonists above:
This matter has been passed to the Legal Services Directorate who are reviewing your correspondence.
We will respond to you once we have considered and reviewed the matter.
True to form and despite numerous requests for updates and questions on why legal services are involved there has been no response. Either they have given up ‘considering the matter’ or have considered it and have not been happy with the conclusion they’ve drawn.
It is as if A&S thought that by telling us that the heavies of legal services are now involved that we would be browbeaten into acquiescence. Why would a force feel it needed to try to bully former offices by telling them that enquiries are in the hands of their solicitors?
The 2012 stated case of Crudace can show A&S where bullying leads..
The judge gave a damning indictment of the bully-boy tactics of the force concerned:
That force was Northumbria, and its solicitor threatened 45 elderly disabled former officers who’d had the temerity to seek an appeal on what later was proved to be unlawful decisions by the force’s SMP. He told them their appeals were hopeless, and if they went ahead the force would apply for costs when they lost.
There has been nothing heard from Shahzad and Dan for several months now. That is, until the latest HR ‘liaison’ meeting. Of course the word ‘liaison’ means something different to A&S than it does to normal folk. Instead of being a meeting to facilitate communication and discussion it is just another black hole into which all questions and queries disappear. The liaison meetings serve one purpose only – they are intended to enable Wood, Bulpitt and Jones to inform local NARPO and Police Federation representatives why the force hasn’t done anything to sort out the mess it has made, and why the delay is all the fault of the IODs.
The latest meeting in June 2015 concluded that:
Avon and Somerset Force HR reported that they now have one instance whereby they consider there is a ‘failure to engage’ with the process by one IOD pensioner, this is being looked at by their legal department.
There is nothing in the Regulations concerning ‘failure to engage’. This is no more than a convenient invention by a force which knows it is in the wrong and seeks to displace the blame. There is regulation 33, but this concerns the wilful and negligent failure to attend a medical examination. Even if such an event were to occur the only power provided by regulation 33 is that a decision can be made on the available medical evidence. It is not a free pass to conduct a fresh review and is in no way a gateway to sanction the infliction of a penalty that automatically reduces the award.
The Home Office stated this month that ‘reduction of awards without proper examination was declared unlawful’.
Before an injury pension can be revised, substantial alteration has to be proved – no evidence of improvement is in no way substantial alteration. The argument from ignorance raises it’s ugly head again.
But what if the person involved is too ill to attend an assessment, and who has sent medical reports from their specialist to the selected medical practitioner explaining that is the case, and who has been pleading with the HR department not to review just now? Any humane, responsible, intelligent, Regulations-savvy HR person would realise that not only should this person not be reviewed as the interval of time since the last decision on degree of disablement is not a suitable interval, but the blanket approach of reviewing a group of band fours is unlawful, and that in the 15 years since their last decision their health has deteriorated.
Is that pensioner ‘failing to engage’? I think it is seen by A&S rather as a case of too much engagement. They would prefer all disabled former officers were compliant sheep. The police pension authority via it’s SMP proxy has available evidence to say in such a circumstance a review is not appropriate. Yet they fail to accept that, and instead of ending the misery they are visiting on the pensioner they want to leave matters endlessly hanging, and imply it is all the pensioner’s fault.
Of course, this is A&S HR I’m talking about, so if its threats and abuse you want, they are the people for the job, but otherwise, forget it.
Deep in their den of Legal Services, Dan and Shahzad have undoubtedly been tasked to frame their next course of action to fit their preferred perverted version of the facts. The decision to ‘come down hard’ has been made. They now have to invent the justification. And that is the bottom line why Legal Services have been engaged. Good luck with that, boys.
Avon & Somerset finds itself in the review paradox.
If the reason to invoke a review is unlawful, as exemplified by A&S failing to make a decision to review on a case by case basis, then any revision of the award is unlawful. Without evidence of substantial change to start with a review is unsafe. The Regulations tell us clearly, that only when a police pension authority is considering whether to revise an injury pension shall it refer the question of degree of disablement to a duly qualified medical practitioner. Well, the fact is you can’t revise an injury pension unless there has been a substantial alteration on degree of disablement. In plain language, understood by all except those in A&S who would prefer the Regulations were written differently, this means that there has to be some good reason for believing there has been a substantial alteration in degree of disablement before they can tell a pensioner he has to see the SMP,
The paradox is that it is unlawful to make a revision to an award when there was no reason to invoke the revision in the first instance.
The corollary to the paradox is that is it unlawful to declare a ‘failure to engage’ when the Regulations are absent of such a term, and you can not ‘fail to engage’ in an invocation of something that should not have been brought into being.
Perhaps Dan and Shahzad need to brush up on their legal skills.