“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou,
The authors of this blog have been weighing up what to write for our next post. Not because we lack material – quite the opposite; in fact we have an embarrassment of material. The embarrassment would be all Avon and Somerset’s if they had any ability to feel shame for what they have done
The reason for our publishing predicament is that at the moment some of the material we’ve gathered from various sources is ground-shatteringly explosive. It’s an agreeable predicament, in that by writing about it in a public blog we expose the existence of the ticking nuclear device which IOD pensioners have obtained and are preparing to use. So we won’t ruin the surprise. Let’s just move on for the moment and we can talk about this another time, when the fall-out dust has settled and the heads have rolled.
So, after a bit of consideration, we are back onto our least favourite topic. A topic which makes it hard for us to hold on to our view that human beings generally chose to do the right thing when given a choice between doing harm or doing good. Our hearts sink when we contemplate the walking contradiction which is the supposedly ethical medical doctor who consistently prefers to cause harm rather than do good. Yes, we are talking about Dr Philip Johnson.
He is the medic who ambled blindly into the role of being the patsy for A&S. We think he was conned. He was told he would be paid handsomely for performing a routine assessment of disabled former officers. A task which would take an hour of his time per pensioner, plus another hour to write up a short report. ‘Nice little earner,’ he was told. ‘We have 480 of them all lined up like ducks in a row.’
Kerching! Johnson did the maths. Visions of barrows loaded with money.
A&S didn’t tell him that two other doctors had been approached earlier and had seen right through the cunning plan devised by A&S to save money by unlawfully reviewing and reducing pension payments made to disabled former officers; 2 doctors that A&S attempted to groom in-house for the exclusive role of reducing the banding of injury awards by any means necessary. Those doctors left suddenly under a cloud – they had declined to prostitute their talents by dancing to A&S’s tune (that’s a story deserving of its own blog post).
His dreams of cash-flow were soon shattered when he realised it wasn’t about to be so easy. There was a small problem called the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. It came as a shock to him to realise that he actually had to follow them. You see, Johnson was told otherwise.
He was subjected to a ‘training event’ held at the College of Policing. The core of this ‘training’ was a rambling load of crap delivered by none other than that fine upstanding example of legal rectitude, Nicholas Wirz, who is the head solicitor for Northumbria Police. He is the pheasant plucker who advised Northumbria’s SMP Dr Broome to unlawfully reduce the pensions of some 70 disabled elderly former officers to band one.
Yes, you read that right. A solicitor whose advice was to do something against the law, on the basis that the intended victims were too weak to do anything about it.
When the inevitable applications for appeal were made, our old Nick threatened the applicants (he would say he warned them) that their appeals would be deemed vexatious (where have we heard that word more recently?) and they would have to pay £6,200 adverse costs when their appeals failed.
Johnson had soaked up the wonderful professional atmosphere of the College, enjoyed the socialising with his intellectual equals, and hung on the words of the eminent legal expert Wirz. Being naïve, Johnson took as gospel everything Wirz and his little sidekick Trevor Forbes had to say.
But when pensioners began to tell him that he was breaking the law, that he was not following the Regulations and that they would not bow to his ridiculous demands to allow him unrestricted access to their medical records from birth, and that if he insisted then they would be seeking legal representation – from a proper solicitor – he slowly began to realise that his nice little earner was in fact a purse of counterfeit currency.
He turned to the other ‘organisation of excellence’ the National Attendance Management Forum (NAMF).
Before detailing how the NAMF influenced Johnson we have to divert for a moment and wonder what a bunch of HR functionaries and others are doing when they diversify from discussing issues around why employees go sick and what can be done about it, to issuing detailed so-called guidance on complex legal matters concerning police injury pensions.
For that is what the NAMF did. It produced some guidance for SMPs like Johnson. Presumably on the basis that some SMPs were so thick they couldn’t be trusted to understand the Regulations and apply caselaw properly.
Johnson was fully trained and guidanced-up. He was good to go.
Then it all went pear shaped, with queries and challenges. And that was when he showed his true colours. That was the moment when he had a choice to make. Brave soul that he is, he did not hesitate – and chose to cover his substantial ass. He chose self preservation over doing the decent thing.
Drawing on his considerable Army experience, (and on the Book of Wirz) he decided the best form of defence was attack. He insisted he was right, that he could demand access to medical records from birth. In this way, he was able to not conclude the reviews he had conducted, and blame the lack of a decision on the pensioners who had failed to cooperate with his demands.
By not making any decisions, he reckoned he could not be criticised as there would be nothing to appeal against.
However, Johnson, he who can’t spot a legal charlatan when he sees one, who is blinded by thoughts of earning easy money, who seems to lack the wit to read and understand the Regulations, who has difficulty in researching the readily-available transcripts of relevant High Court cases and who when given a choice between doing good or doing harm, chose the latter in a feeble attempt to save his own skin, is a man who can’t even follow the guidance issued by the NAMF.
Here is the NAMF politburo directive in black and white:
… the only evidence he may consider upon review is that which post-dates the earlier review.
Seems straightforward enough doesn’t it? This comes from the NAMF’s verbosely titled ‘Procedural guidance on Assessing and reassessing the degree of disablement as a result of an injury received in the execution of duty’ [sic] dated 01/03/2013. It seems that even in a pile of manure there may be found a single pip of legal accuracy.
We all know that NAMF has zero legal jurisdiction on matters covered by a statutory instrument passed by Parliament, a.k.a. The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006; but NAMF guidance is what some forces cling to for legitimacy.
It’s a crying shame then that this willing recipient of NAMF codswallop can’t even follow its directives.
Our premise is that Johnson was conned. Not just by A&S when they hired him and failed to mention the intention was to have him conduct unlawful reviews so that injury pensions could be reduced – to act as the front man, the fall guy, should anything go wrong. The first fifteen reviews were, it is now admitted by A&S, to be a ‘trial’ of the process (we haven’t miscounted, we know the saga of all the 16). You don’t need to trial the law – you need to apply it correctly. What was being trialled was a way to abuse and subvert the law.
Johnson was further conned by the training event held at the College of Policing. There he listened attentively to what will in due course go down in injury pension history as the biggest load of bovine excrement ever produced.
To a neutral observer it’s clear that he lacked the moral fibre to do the right thing and tell those who hired him that he would follow only the Regulations, not so-called guidance from any source. When he saw the harm the review process was causing to vulnerable, damaged, disabled people he suppressed his Hippocratic principles and chose not to do what he could to repair the harm. Instead of accepting responsibility for his failing to make decisions for over a year, he chose to seek to blame the pensioners. Instead of acting honourably and resigning his position, he chose to cling on by his fingertips, hoping that by so doing he would not be exposed to the inevitable litigation that would result from such widespread and determined maladministration. Rather than blow the whistle on the damning evidence of unlawful intent in the conversations he has been privy too at A&S he chose to keep silent.
Dr Johnson has made his choices. He must eventually face the consequences. He may not have long to wait. That said, it might be wise to find a tin hat to wear if you are also part of the ‘J-K-W-B’ posse of four employee ‘enablers’ who merrily have overseen the maladministration.