“The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary.”
― Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth
The most glaring source of scepticism towards Merseyside Police’s affection for the Police Injury Benefit Regulations can be summed up in five words: ‘they never review band ones’.
Merseyside Police recently set about conducting a mass review of the degree of disablement of former officers retired due to injury on duty, and who exist on an injury pension paid as compensation for those injuries. Merseyside conducted 502 such reviews last year.
We in IODPA have good reason to believe that these reviews were motivated by an intention to try to save money, and not by any concern to ensure that the pension Regulations were being properly applied. Merseyside was not looking to see if anyone was being paid their injury pension at too low band or too high a band, which would be appropriate if there had been some substantial alteration in their medical condition. No, they set out to see if they could reduce pension payments.
They accordingly started their review programme with those pensioners who are on the highest band of degree of disablement. The highest band pays the highest level of pension attainable, and, can’t be increased, but, Merseyside reasoned, might be reduced.
We revealed in an earlier blog how ‘only’ 25 individuals had their injury pension payments reduced. We don’t know by how much. We pointed out that it was beyond belief that not a single disabled former officer was found to be in a worse condition and given an increase in injury pension payment. Statistically, this lack of any increased pension payments is not possible.
The overall impression is that despite the fact that the Regulations impose on Merseyside’s Chief Constable (as the Police Pension Authority) a duty to ensure that police injury awards are administered fairly and lawfully, the Medical Retirement Officer (MRO) is happy to ignore the law when it suits him. It was the MRO who instigated and managed the reviews, and he has placed his Chief Constable in a very difficult position.
There are 880 individuals retired from Merseyside who receive an injury pension, 502 have been reviewed. The remaining 378 are all on band one pensions – the lowest payments – and this force has a policy not to review people who have no possibility of having their awards reduced.
Merseyside has ensured our cynical view of its motives by admitting they don’t review band ones. This admission is the clearest possible illustration that it is Merseyside’s view that if there are no pips to squeeze, why get the juicer out of the cupboard?
Here is the admission, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.
|FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST||DJ 092/14 – RESPONSE|
|The Medical Retirement Office of Merseyside Police recently sent out a number of letters, together with a questionnaire, to former officers who are retired and in receipt of an injury award pension.
The letters requested that the recipient complete the enclosed questionnaire with a view to considering whether his/her injury pension should be reviewed.
The questionnaire is entitled, ‘Review Of Injury Award Questionnaire’
I am requesting the following information in relation to these letters and questionnaires:
1) How many have been sent out?
2) How many is it intended to send out within the next two months?
3) What criteria were used to select the recipients? When answering please pay particular attention to whether recipients were selected by reason of their age, or by reason of them being at or around what would have been normal compulsory retirement age for the force, or for reason of the degree of disablement of the recipient.
|1) The process commenced in 2014 and a total of 35 questionnaires have been sent out to date.
2) Within the next two months it is anticipated that a further thirty questionnaires will be sent out.
3) The criteria for selection of injury award review were based on Band 4, then Band 3, then Band 2. Band 1 will not be reviewed unless requested by the former officer and in that case they would be seen as a priority.
As the self-proclaimed architect of Merseyside Police’s retirement policy, it seems that the MRO enjoys the privilege of making up the rules to suit himself, and ignoring the Regulations whenever the fancy takes him. We understand that he, as a matter of common practice, acts completely outside the restrictions of the Regulations and makes decisions that he is not empowered to make.
We hear that he decides who will get an injury award and who will be refused. He does this without benefit of medical qualifications, or any meaningful input from the force’s tame SMP or FMA. We believe that the 502 reviews of degree of disablement were done similarly, with little to no consideration of medical matters, and were decided on the basis of a person’s income.
Some police forces have been quick to declare they have a duty to review degree of disablement, citing a positive power to do so, often quoting that a SMP has ‘recommended’ when an individual might be reviewed. However, these forces do not exhibit moral consistency when they ignore where a SMP may have advised, on a decades old retirement certificate, not to ever review the individual concerned. How many of the 502 who Merseyside reviewed had ‘no reviews’ or ‘no further reviews’ on their certificates? Where was the individual consideration whether a review was indeed appropriate?
The stench of of hypocrisy hangs heavily over Merseyside, but proves nothing about the topic – in reality there is no legal authority for Merseyside to say they won’t review band ones, en masse, just like there there is no legal requirement for a SMP to recommend when a review might take place, or to exempt someone from reviews.
Merseyside completely misses the point, which is that the PPA is required – legally required – to exercise discretion in each individual case. If the PPA (in reality the MRO with one eye on a bit of brown-nosing and career enhancement) decides to review all injury pensions, except for band ones, then there clearly has been not even an imperceptible nod in acknowledgement of the need to decide whether a review would be appropriate in each individual instance.
Below is the result of a recent Freedom of Information request which provides damning evidence that Merseyside will not rest until all injury awards have been reduced to the bare minimum.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST Ref. SM4011/16
|In FOI request SM322/15 you state that the review was restricted to band 2 and above. Please provide me with the reasons that band 1’s were not reviewed.||We can confirm that historically Merseyside Police have not reviewed Band 1 Injury Awards unless the review has been requested by the ex officer themselves||The rationale for this approach is that the Force Medical Advisor, acting in the role of Selected Medical Practitioner, records on their certificate “No further review”. The pensioner is provided with a copy of this certificate confirming that this is the case. Therefore they have been formally advised that there will not be a review of their award.|
The proposition that an administrative authority must act within the powers conferred upon it by the legislature may well be considered the foundation of Administrative Law. In Latin, ‘Ultra’ means beyond and ‘Vires’ means powers. Thus, the expression ultra vires means an act beyond the powers.
A Selected Medical Practitioner who writes ‘never to be reviewed’ on a former officers H1 certificate is acting beyond their statutory duty. They might have decided the person being assessed for an injury award will never work again, or their condition may likely never improve, but the Regulations do not bestow any authority to allow the SMP to declare that someone should never have their degree of disablement reviewed. Merseyside has seized on these ‘recommendations’ as reason to abandon the over-riding duty of the PPA to ensure that the correct level of injury pension continues to be paid.
What a SMP thought, some years ago, can never be more than a guess. Maybe an informed guess, but as nobody can predict the future, it is plain wrong to claim that a guess, made outside the Regulations, as a sort of extra-regulatory add-on to a certificate, should bind a PPA as to its future actions. If the PPA is claiming that these recommendations are binding, then the PPA is wrong. If the PPA fails to consider, from time to time, for each and every individual who is in receipt of an injury pension, whether their degree of disablement has altered, then the PPA is fettering the power of discretion which the Regulations require he exercise.
We also must question the reason behind any SMP recording on a certificate or in a report his opinion that an individual need not be reviewed. It is not beyond the realms of possibility, given the rampant corruption that we know is the norm in some forces, for the SMP to make that recommendation with the deliberate intent of ensuring that someone who should properly have been placed in a higher band of disablement is never seen by any future, more honest, SMP who would conduct a review and see that the original decision was flawed.
We pause here to speak directly to all the Merseyside pensioners who are on band one. We say, if you have reason to think that you should have been placed in a higher banding when granted your injury pension, or if you feel that your degree of disablement has substantially worsened since you retired, then you should seek professional advice – via IODPA – as any earlier decision on degree of disablement can be challenged by means of regulation 32-(2). That regulations allows the reconsideration of any earlier decision, without limit of time. So, even if you have been retired for many years, you can request that the PPA arrange for any earlier decision to be looked at again.
We recommend that you think carefully about the benefits of using regulation 32-(2) over simply asking the PPA to conduct a review. A review may increase your banding, but any increase in pension payment will commence from the date of the review. If you ask for and get a successful regulation 32-(2) reconsideration of an earlier decision, where the SMP decides you should have been placed on a higher band all those years ago, then you stand to be paid all monies lost by underpayment for all those years, with interest added.
When we look at what Merseyside are saying in the above FOIA response, we have to point out that it is scurrilous to claim that pensioners were advised they were never to be reviewed. Merseyside could not make that ‘promise’ (or was it a threat?) without breaking into pieces a fundamental part of the Regulations, which is the provision for the PPA to exercise discretion over whether or when to hold a review. Merseyside could not bind any future office-holder’s power of discretion, nor could Merseyside effectively say that the individuals concerned would never experience any alteration in their degree of disablement.
The point is that the Regulations definitely do not allow a band one to be treated any differently from a band four. Merseyside has deliberately set out to deny all the people who are on band one injury pensions any chance of having their pension increased. The recent mass review unfairly discriminated against all former officers who are on band one.
Some HR managers may ask, ‘Why can’t a former officer be labelled as ‘exempt from review’? The answer is that the Regulations do not confer the power of exemption upon the decision maker. The decision maker under the Police Injury Benefit Regulations is the Selected Medical Practitioner (SMP) but the decision itself belongs to the PPA.
The way that decisions are to be made has been clarified by cases which went to Judicial Review, but it is still surprisingly common for HR managers to still not understand the profound subtlety of what His Honour Judge Behrens declared in paragraphs 66 and 68 of Crudace, R (on the application of) v Northumbria Police Authority  . HR managers seem to think that the decision is only for the PPA to make. It isn’t – the decision is owned by the PPA but it is delegated to the SMP.
- He accepts, of course, that the actual decision is made, in the first instance, by the SMP or on appeal by the PMAB. He also accepts that both the SMP and the PMAB are independent. However he submits that the decision is still a decision of the Police Authority albeit a decision that has been delegated to the SMP/ PMAB by regulation 30(2) or 30(3). He referred me to paragraph 18 of the judgment of Laws LJ in Laws where he referred to the decision as being of the Police Authority (via the SMP/board). …
…68.It seems to me that the wording of regulation 37 makes it clear that the decision to revise the pension is the decision of the police authority. It follows, in my view that the decision of the SMP and/or the PMAB on appeal can only be as the delegate of the Police Authority. This is so even though they are independent and the Police Authority is bound to accept their decision as final (subject to reconsideration under regulation 32(2) and/or judicial review).
If the SMP records that it is his opinion that a person should not be reviewed for medical reasons then that is well within his medical judgement to say so and this shall carry weight in any future considerations but the SMP as the promise maker, nor the promise recipient, has any power to enforce it.
That being said there will have to be exceedingly strong and compelling evidence to allow a review if the previous SMP had declared that such a review would be harmful to the former officer’s health. Just being a band one is not a medical reason and is as opposite to compelling as can possibly be.
The decision maker can declare that a review should be avoided if at all possible: A SMP might well want to write,“In my medical opinion this former officer should never be reviewed as it will be to the detriment of his health” but such sentiment, or opinion, is worlds away from writing, “I have made a promise to this former officer that he shall never be reviewed”. Some people reading this will have documents stating exactly that this – that the last SMP they saw made such a promise to them – but unfortunately a substantive promise cannot be upheld if it is ultra vires.
A declaration made on a medical certificate recording “No further review” giving formal advice that there will not be a review of an individual’s degree of disbalement just because they are a band one is a travesty of not only the Regulations but also the foundations of administrative law.
The statute is clear that there are only two agents involved in the decision making process, the PPA and SMP – so how little weight shall be put on the decision of a civilian medical retirement officer who is telling the force medical officer to write on a certificate to never review someone purely because they can’t be reduced further?
Until Merseyside performs the necessary checks to make sure all the band ones retired from that force are receiving the correct award entitlement, that none of them have suffered deterioration in their degree of disablement in relation to their earning capacity, and as a result of these checks a relative proportion of the band ones are increased up a band, then scepticism of their true illegal intentions will forever remain.
Merseyside’s claim that band ones can self-refer themselves if they ever want to be reviewed is ridiculous, given many will not realise the option is open to them, and those that do know will not want to flagellate themselves by dealing with corrupt elements of an organisation which are determined to abuse the scope and purpose of the Regulations. Not a convincing argument by Merseyside Police to encourage a band one to volunteer to put themselves forward.
Remember, pensioners, and take note Chief Constable, that in 2015, in all the reviews of bands two, three and fours, not a single award was increased. Something is rotten in Merseyside, and the smell will only get worse unless someone takes a broom and a shovel and does some stable cleaning.