Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins.
William Pitt – Case of Wilkes. Speech (January 9, 1770)
A hatchet man is a person employed to carry out controversial or disagreeable tasks, such as the dismissal of a number of people from employment. Merseyside Police employ a hatchet man with the grand title of Medical Retirement Officer (MRO) whose role is more sinister and which adversely affects vulnerable disabled officers and former officers.
His task is to prioritise maximum savings to the force budget, ‘through the robust investigation of injury award applications, appeals and reviews‘.
We quote above from his job description. This is what the man is hired to do. Not placed there to help injured and distressed people obtain their lawful rights, but to ‘investigate’ them with the objective of reducing the amount of money which would otherwise be paid them by way of recompense for injuries incurred in the line of duty.
There is only one way to read the intention behind the role of MRO. It is a perversion of what the Regulations governing injury on duty pensions were intended to achieve. We fully accept that no public money should be awarded without due diligence. All well and good if ‘robust’ was taken to mean that great care should be taken to comply with the Regulations, but we see that in Merseyside they believe that ‘robust’ means doing whatever they think they can get away with to deny injured officers and former officers their rights.
What Merseyside’s MRO is doing is unlawful. And it is shameful.
We in IODPA are not naïve. We understand all too well that there has to be some form of administrative procedure regarding Injury Awards which requires management by a functionary of some sort. That being said, the functionary needs to be neutral with no set agenda other than the lawful application of the statutory duties imposed upon the organisation by the Regulations.
We are, frankly, appalled to see that the job description of the Medical Retirement Officer ignores this principle and imposes an agenda upon the position which prioritises the needs of the organisation over the rights of the recipient. The job description includes sentences such as:
[. . . ] ensure that any changes to pension payments are implemented and financial savings made where appropriate.
There should be no thought given by the Medical Retirement Officer as to the financial consequences on the force of helping to ensure the Regulations are applied lawfully. His role is an abuse of the scope and purpose of the Regulations.
When we see that the Medical Retirement Officer’s main objective is to save money for the Chief Constable it becomes clear that he can not possibly be acting lawfully.
We know, for example, that he takes it upon himself to decide whether any applicant for an injury award application is seen by the selected medical practitioner (SMP) or not.
On behalf of the Police Pension Authority, who is in farcical fact, not an impartial body, but is none other than the Chief Constable wearing a different hat, the MRO blithely breaches the Data Protection Act by forensic examination of the confidential medical records and reports of individuals.
No wonder the Chief Constable of Merseyside finds it hard to arrange for the Regulations to be administered lawfully. He is under pressure to reduce spending, and police injury pensions consume a significant part of his budget. But, that is a pill he just has to swallow. He is under a legal obligation to administer the Regulations properly. He is not entitled to look upon them as an expense which can be trimmed.
I refer the Chief Constable to the case of The Police Federation of England and Wales v. The Secretary for the Home Department (Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 488 (Admin) Case No: CO/7612/2008). This case concerned the date when new commutation factors for police pensions were brought into law.
Justice Cox stated:
‘The Home Secretary’s undoubted interest in the expenditure of police authorities does not in my view enable her to alter those rights and liabilities which arise under the Regulations.’
‘Affordability and public expenditure implications are therefore, in my judgment, irrelevant.’
It is not within the remit of any Chief Constable to direct an employee to save money by means of unlawful manipulation the Regulations. It is an abuse of his authority to specify in a job description that the MRO must approach his task with the objective of making financial savings. The over-riding intention of the Regulations is that people should be paid at the level which is appropriate to the individual circumstances. There is ample mechanism within the Regulations to ensure that this is achieved. Nobody should receive more that their due, and nobody should receive less than their due.
Merseyside has deliberately set out to ensure that the latter situation is the norm.
The MRO decides regulation 37 reviews without the benefit of any input from the SMP. He decides who has experienced a substantial alteration in degree of disablement, and who has not – and does this, not on the basis of medical evidence, but on whether the individual has increased earnings or not. He operates a rule of thumb, whereby if someone has seen an increase of over 10% in their earnings then, ipso facto, they must have had a substantial alteration in degree of disablement.
This is what he instructs former officers who are on an injury pension:
‘. . . if you commence work or if you are currently working and your gross salary increases by over 10% you are required to inform this department as soon as practicable.’
We have to comment that the MRO has no authority whatever to ‘require’ any private citizen to inform him of a salary increase. Moreover, we feel like shouting at the MRO that a pay increase does not in any way signify that there will have been a substantial alteration in degree of disablement.
What the MRO is doing is creating an iron link between wages and disablement, when, under the Regulations, no such link exists. Disabled former officers are free to earn whatever they can, and their employers are entitled to give them a pay rise if they wish. A pay rise can have no possible link with the level of an individual’s degree of disablement. The MRO is using this as a means of reviewing degree of disablement, as an excuse for holding a review with no good reason, and as justification for reducing the level of pension paid.
Merseyside have corrupted the purpose of the Regulations and turned its provisions on their head for the sole purpose of ensuring that disabled former officers are robbed of their correct level of injury pension payment. The medical basis of assessment of degree of disablement has been abandoned in favour of an actuarial exercise where the cost exposure to the force is the bottom line.
While any question under the Police Injury Benefit Regulations is medical by nature and always requires the opinion of a SMP, in Merseyside the SMP seemingly does not make the decisions. The SMP acts only as a rubber stamp for the pre-made determination of the Medical Retirement Officer. The Medical Retirement Officer is like an injury award hitman-by-proxy, getting paid to maximise cost savings for the Chief Constable, with no fear of any comeback.
Disabled former officers and serving officers seeking an injury award are kept in the dark. It seems very successfully, for few of them have the knowledge required to realise that they are being ripped off. Many of them are in no fit state to raise a query, and thus accept the decisions conveyed to them with no realisation that the decisions have been unlawfully arrived at. Put simply, they trust their force to do the right thing by them when injured on duty to the extent that they can no longer perform the ordinary duties of a police officer.
Clearly, that trust is sadly misplaced. There are some 880 former officers from Merseyside Police who are paid an injury pension. They need to wake up to the fact that they have, in all probability, been denied their proper pension rights.
Of course, a few individuals do raise queries with the MRO. They question his decisions. Some even manage to take matters to appeal via a Police Medical Appeal Board. Merseyside plays the numbers game. A deliberate calculation has been made, which concludes that those few individuals who do request an appeal to a Police Medical Appeal Board are far outnumbered by the majority who have no idea that they are being denied their rights.
The Medical Retirement Officer makes the decisions but never has to face the consequences. He never has to account for or justify his actions, as he is not the one who would have to be listed as the respondent at a PMAB, or at a judicial review.
The French have a term for such a position: éminence grise (French: “grey eminence”), a powerful advisor or decision-maker who operates secretly or otherwise unofficially. An apt English phrase is ‘the power behind the throne’, someone who does not have the ultimate official position in a government or organization but who secretly controls it.
The Medical Retirement Officer is not a qualified medical authority – but is deciding what are essentially medical matters. He is making decisions for the Police Pension Authority, and we question whether he has the delegated power to do so. The Chief Constable has already delegated the day-to-day operation of his role as PPA to the head or director of Human Resources. Delegata potestas non potest delegari is Latin for a constitutional and administrative law, translated as, ‘no delegated powers can be further delegated’ and may well apply here.
According to Merseyside, a Medical Retirement Officer as well as having the skills to save the force money should also have:
‘A good knowledge of investigative procedures [. . . ]. Knowledge and understanding of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act with regards to surveillance and investigation of officers and pensioners believed to be falsely claiming compensation.’
Not only shall the Medical Retirement Officer have the principle duty to reduce financial costs to the expense of those injured on duty, but he is also let loose with RIPA.
Judicial approval should be the norm, not the exception, for placing members of the public under surveillance and public authorities should be compelled to report how and why they are spying on disabled persons by abusing powers that were introduced to protect us from terrorism and serious crime.
There is no room for RIPA in the administration and lawful application of the Police Injury Benefit Regulations. Medical evidence is paramount. If the PPA has any cause to think that any individual is working the system, the regulation 37 allows for a formal review of the degree of disablement. The individual can be medically assessed by a duly qualified medical practitioner, selected by the PPA.
The SMP alone should make an assessment, and a decision, and once made that decision is final. Should there be any attempt to exaggerate one’s medical disability a qualified clinician should have little difficulty in spotting it. If fraud is suspected then this would be a matter for a serious criminal investigation and prosecution. It is not open to a Medical Retirement Officer to use RIPA as a means to maximise the financial savings to benefit the force budget.
An injury award is not a benefit that has to be reapplied for – it is an entitlement for life and is final once the high bar of the initial grant has been attained.
Is all the above too hard to believe? Can you bring yourself to realise that a police force, whose job it is to prevent crime, could allow disabled former officers to be put at the mercy of a MRO whose objective is to unlawfully reduce their pensions, and to do whatever it takes to prevent injured serving officers being granted an injury award?
Here is the job description of Merseyside Police’s Medical Retirement Officer as obtained in a recent Freedom of Information act request.
This job description shows all that is wrong with the way Merseyside, and some other forces, are administering injury awards. The glib references to following Home Office guidance is a poor attempt of virtue signalling – making a statement that blithely mentions the requirement to ‘follow guidance’ because it thinks it sounds right and it will garner approval, rather than because anyone will actually believe it. This job description was created in February 2015. The Home Office partially withdrew their central guidance for injury reviews in March 2012 and then completely in February 2014. There is no Home Office guidance to follow.
Instead, the Home Office now prefers to keep away from the misdeeds of Chief Constables and their hatchet men. The Home Office now says,
‘We would advise, in the event that such reviews are being conducted or considered, that police authorities should satisfy themselves that they are acting in accordance with the regulations and the relevant case law in the light of the decision in Simpson.’
IODPA suggest that the Chief Constable of Merseyside take a long hard look at what has been done, and continues to be done in his name by the Medical Retirement Officer. If the Chief Constable fails to act then our suspicion, that every breach of the Regulations committed by the MRO is done with his approval and encouragement, will be justified.
There are 880 individuals retired from Merseyside who receive an injury pension. There needs to be conducted and independent and scrupulously fair and impartial appraisal of how each and every one of their injury pensions have been administered.