As long as we can get redress in the courts, as long as the laws shall be honestly administered, as long as honesty and intelligence sit upon the bench, as long as intelligence sits in the chairs of jurors, this country will stand, the law will be enforced, and the law will be respected. -Robert Green Ingersoll
Police Medical Appeal Boards (PMABs), for all their faults, have an important function in the administration of police injury awards.
Quite often SMPs come to an erroneous decision and make glaring errors in their final report. You only need to look at the legion of Pension Ombudsman determinations and high court judgements. There are many possible reasons why SMPs make errors. Commonly, they fail to assess the medical evidence properly, and may be misled by irrelevant, prejudicial or fabricated evidence fed to him by a HR minion. The SMP may be following Home Office or NAMF guidance which has no lawful authority, and in doing so contravenes the Regulations and the case-law that exists to dictate the narrow remit of his lawful duty.
PMABs provide a forum in which retired officers may have these concerns addressed. They serve an important institutional function. They should provide legitimacy to the system as a whole by maintaining consistency in decisions and their function is to prevent miscarriages of the Regulations.
Nevertheless, Police pension authorities seem eager to neglect their duty to act fairly. They are knowingly interfering in the access to PMABs by declaring fictional restrictions, and to achieve this they will resort to nefarious threats that are well outside the sanction of natural justice in order to scare people away from their important right to appeal.
Just look at Nicholas Wirz, Principal Solicitor to Northumbria Police:
Crudace. Paragraph 49
On 2nd July 2009 the Police Authority solicitor, Mr Nicholas Wirz, sent Mr Crudace a letter which in effect threatened the Claimant with a £6,200 adverse costs award if he persisted with his appeal …
…45 of the 70 former officers who were the subject of decisions on 20th February 2009 lodged notices of appeal. Mr Wirz sent a letter in similar terms to each of them. The letter has been the subject of criticism by Mr Lock QC and was also the subject of a complaint to Mr Wirz’s professional body
Recently IODPA has seen more examples of threats such as above. A former officer has recently been told by a Northern force that the SMP requires, ‘full medical records to understand the baseline from which he has to assess whether there has been any significant change’. Failure to do as demanded is threatened with the punitive reduction to a level of 0% degree of disablement. Kafkaesque in it sinisterness, the author of this letter then proves his point by attaching a copy of the new ‘financial statement’ based on a 0% degree of disablement/Band 1 award. This is not far removed from the Medieval practice of showing the instruments of torture to the prisoner.
Forget lawful process; forget evidence of substantial change and the other requirements of the Regulations, this is simply: ‘Do as we say, or else’
In the spirit of the times, the threats are becoming more and more forceful.
Regularly appearing now is the threat that if, at a review, full medical records are not disclosed then not only will the police pension authority automatically reduce the pensioner to 0% without lawful authority, they also proclaim, astoundingly, that there is no avenue to appeal at PMAB.
This quote can be found in the new consent form sent out by Avon & Somerset. Forget Kafkaesque; we need a new expression of surreal distortion and sense of impending danger – the Avon and Somerset threat is Wirzesque in it’s intimidating menace.
The former officer has to under-sign this statement:
I understand that at any time in the Procedure I may elect to withdraw my consent to attend a medical consultation or for medical information about me to be disclosed. […] I understand that in these circumstances the Pension Authority may decide the issue of Permanent Disability and that I will not enjoy a right of appeal to a Medical Appeal Board
The HR minion who sent this letter is referring to the refusal of consent of full medical records. There is no space in the form to specify a date range therefore they are asking for full medical records, from birth, or nothing. Then they threaten to reconsider the issue of Permanent Disability and continue to say the entitlement of a PMAB is forfeit.
There is no explicit mention of it, but the HR minion is of course referring to Regulation 33 (refusal to be medically examined). What the minion fails to acknowledge is that consent to the pension authority is different and distinctly separate to the consent to a PMAB. Also the minion neglects to inform the would-be signer that Regulation 33 is concerned with ‘wilful or negligent’ refusal to be medically examined.
It is true to say if consent to a medical examination and access to relevant medical records required by a PMAB (when the appeal process has commenced) is not granted then the appeal is withdrawn – but this is an entirely different matter to the disclosing of full medical records from birth to the pension authority.
Let us examine this further. What if the person reviewed has good reason not to disclose full medical records to the pension authority? – this is neither wilful nor negligent failure. In this theoretical example, just say the pension authority punishes the disabled former officer by unlawfully totally removing the injury award by declaring that there is no permanent disability.
Regulation 33 does not speak of punitive measures. It also does not allow a gateway into anything other than Regulation 30-2(d), the degree of disablement – the sole question allowed in a Regulation 37 review. There is no power for Regulation 33 to reconsider Regulation 30-2(b), in other words the permanency of disablement.
There is also no power for the pension authority to block access to a PMAB. If the medical consent is subsequently granted to the PMAB then the appeal board will hear it. Remember, the appellant may have a valid reason to deny full medical records to the pension authority but may be extremely willing to allow the PMAB panel to see the same.
The pension authority has no jurisdiction to block access to a legal appeal process.
Plain and simple it is a dirty threat that the pension authority has no power to enforce. A rather sick bluff used against vulnerable individuals.
Just like the Home Office circular 46/2004 proclaiming that people over 65 have no earning capacity, the issue of consent to full medical records and threats to invoke punitive reductions of injury awards is hollow and unlawful and will be demolished by means of Judicial Review.
Deliberately scaring disabled former officers by exposing them to unlawful threats and frightening them into compliance is now firmly embedded into the PPAs’ toolkit to undermine the Police Injury Benefit Regulations.
It is just heartbreaking that police pension authorities are on such a self-destructive path.