Month: December 2016

Avenues of Appeal

Avenues of Appeal

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realised that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

If you are unhappy about any regulatory decision made by the Police Pension Authority (PPA) concerning an injury award or ill health retirement you are able to appeal against the decision. (In most forces the PPA is an office vested in the sole personage of the Chief Constable)

The intention of this post is to remind our readers of some of the ways injustice can be resolved.  As with other legal challenges, an appeal needs to be based on some good reason. Therefore, you will need to be able to point to any apparent error of fact or law which the authority has made.

A PPA carries ultimate responsibility, and will be the body named in the appeal, but the actual decision in question may have been made under delegation by a HR person, some other civilian worker or a SMP. A SMP has a regulatory duty to make certain decisions on behalf of the PPA. Decisions made by a Police Medical Appeal Board (PMAB) can also be subject to appeal.

The avenues of appeal available depend on the Regulation the decision was made under and whether you are currently serving or medically retired. Any decision which you receive from the PPA, SMP or a PMAB will be set out in writing and will normally contain the rationale or reason for the decision. A decision notification should also outline the reasons for the decision, and list avenues through which you may appeal the decision, as well as the relevant time limits within which an appeal must be made.

As well as formal avenues of appeal it is worth bearing in mind that complaints can be made about any individual employed by a police force, or against the police force itself. Complaints are justified wherever there is incompetence, injustice or a refusal to act within the rules of the pension schemes. All forces are required to have a formal Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure (IDRP) and will provide you with details of how it is operated.

Complaints about alleged criminal acts can be made to the Independent Police And Crime Commissioner.

Complaints to governing bodies (e.g. the General Medical Council or the Law Society) about the behaviour of the decision maker can also be pursued either unilaterally or combination to an Ombudsman concerning further maladministration.

Here is a brief list of the more usual avenues for appeal.

  • Regulation 32 Reconsideration (Further reference to medical authority – PIBR 2006)
  • Police Medical Appeals Board (Regulation 31 PIBR 2006 –  Appeal to board of medical referees)
  • Crown Court
  • Employment Tribunal & Employment Appeal Tribunal
  • Pension Ombudsman
  • Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Equality Advisory and Support Service
  • Judicial Review
Regulation 32

Of particular note, as being probably the most useful, yet most under-used mechanism for having questionable decisions corrected is contained in regulation 32 of The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. This is a very important provision of the Regulations, which every serving and retired officer who seeks or who is in receipt of an injury award should make themselves, their Federation Rep and any legal representative familiar with. Here it is in full:

Further reference to medical authority

32.—(1) A court hearing an appeal under regulation 34 or a tribunal hearing an appeal under regulation 35 may, if they consider that the evidence before the medical authority who has given the final decision was inaccurate or inadequate, refer the decision of that authority to him, or as the case may be it, for reconsideration in the light of such facts as the court or tribunal may direct, and the medical authority shall accordingly reconsider his, or as the case may be its, decision and, if necessary, issue a fresh report which, subject to any further reconsideration under this paragraph, shall be final.

(2) The police [pension] authority and the claimant may, by agreement, refer any final decision of a medical authority who has given such a decision to him, or as the case may be it, for reconsideration, and he, or as the case may be it, shall accordingly reconsider his, or as the case may be its, decision and, if necessary, issue a fresh report, which, subject to any further reconsideration under this paragraph or paragraph (1) or an appeal, where the claimant requests that an appeal of which he has given notice (before referral of the decision under this paragraph) be notified to the Secretary of State, under regulation 31, shall be final.

(3) If a court or tribunal decide, or a claimant and the police [pension] authority agree, to refer a decision to the medical authority for reconsideration under this regulation and that medical authority is unable or unwilling to act, the decision may be referred to a duly qualified medical practitioner or board of medical practitioners selected by the court or tribunal or, as the case may be, agreed upon by the claimant and the police authority, and his, or as the case may be its, decision shall have effect as if it were that of the medical authority who gave the decision which is to be reconsidered.’

(4) In this regulation a medical authority who has given a final decision means the selected medical practitioner, if the time for appeal from his decision has expired without an appeal to a board of medical referees being made, or if, following a notice of appeal to the police [pension] authority, the police [pension] authority have not yet notified the Secretary of State of the appeal, and the board of medical referees, if there has been such an appeal.

The decision maker, which can be either the SMP, or a PMAB, is asked to look again at (reconsider) the decision, in the light of argument and/or information presented by the individual subject to the decision. It provides a simple way of having a mistake corrected.

Mr Justice King in the Haworth judicial review stated that [Regulation 32 is a]

‘. . . free standing mechanism as part of the system of checks and balances in the regulations to ensure that the pension award, either by way of an initial award or on a review to the former police officer by either the SMP or PMAB, has been determined in accordance with the regulations and that the retired officer is being paid the sum to which he is entitled under the regulations.’

Anyone considering using regulation 32 should note well that there is no time limit on when it can be used. It can be activated at any time following a decision – even many years later. We know of instances where historic maladministration has been discovered by pensioners, who can then use regulation 32 to have matters corrected. A typical instance is where an incorrect degree of disablement has been decided.

It is, however, well worth requesting a reconsideration of a decision at the same time as giving notice of appeal to a PMAB. That way, you secure registration of the PMAB appeal within the time limit, which allows the PPA to correct matters swiftly, thus negating the need to go to a PMAB. This has mutual benefits to both the individual and the PPA as stress and cost can be minimised.

One further valuable aspect of this regulation is that if the original decision maker is ‘unable or unwilling’ to make the reconsideration (a SMP might have retired, died, or simply not wish to be proved wrong) then individual is granted an extraordinary power. The individual and the PPA need to agree over selection of the alternate ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’ who will make the reconsideration. That means the individual can object to any doctor proposed by the PPA (on reasonable grounds, such as suspicion of bias or lack of appropriate qualifications). More importantly, though still untested in the Courts, it seems that the individual has the right to propose a duly qualified medical practitioner of his or her own choosing – and that doctor need not be someone who is already acting in the role of SMP for any force.

PMAB

A Police Medical Appeal Board is the method of appeal stipulated in the Regulations as an appeal to board of medical referees when person is dissatisfied with the decision of the selected medical practitioner as set out in a report under Regulation 30(6). A PMAB usually consists of a panel of three (two occupation health doctors and a specialist in the condition being assessed). Notice of intention to appeal to a PMAB needs to be given to a PPA within 28 days of receipt of formal notification of a decision. The appellant then has a further 28 days in which to provide the PPA with the full grounds for the appeal. (There is discretion for these time limits to be extended, within reason.)

A police pension authority does not have the right to appeal to a PMAB and therefore must take a SMPs decision it contests to judicial review.

Crown Court

If a serving officer simultaneously applies for an injury award/ill-health retirement and the police pension authority fails or refuses to refer the decision to a SMP, or a decision of the police authority is that the officers refusal to accept medical treatment is unreasonable, then the refusal or the suggested treatment can be challenged in a Crown Court.

Employment Tribunals

Employment Tribunals are responsible for hearing claims from people who think someone such as an employer or potential employer has treated them unlawfully (unfair dismissal, discrimination, unfair deductions from pay) . Employment Appeal Tribunals are responsible for handling appeals against decisions made by the Employment Tribunal where a legal mistake may have been made in the case.

Post-termination victimisation or discrimination claims are justiciable under the Equality Act 2010 following the recent Court of Appeal Judgments in Jessemy v Rowstock Ltd and Anor [2014] and in Onu v Akwiwu & Anor [2014]

In both decisions Court of Appeal decided that the Equality Act 2010 should be read to cover post-employment victimisation.  This should clear up the uncertainty caused by conflicting Employment Appeal Tribunal decisions on this issue.  In other words, a ‘post-employment‘ medically retired officer has the right to bring a disability, age or gender discrimination claim to an employment tribunal.

Pension Ombudsman

The Pension Ombudsman (PO) has legal powers to settle complaints, maladministration and disputes.  In recent years the PO has played an important part in having maladministration of injury awards corrected. If the PO decides someone responsible for a decision or the wrongful exercise of a power of discretion, or has got the law wrong or has not followed the scheme’s rules or regulations, or not taken the right things into account, they can tell them to go through the process again, but properly.

If financial loss has occurred, the PO can enforce the decision maker to put the disadvantaged individual back into the position they would have been in if everything had been done correctly. The PO can also decide upon redress for non-financial injustice, whether someone has been caused significant inconvenience, disappointment or distress. Although amounts of compensation are usually rather low, they serve to underline the finding of wrongdoing.

Every pension scheme has to have an Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (IDRP) system built in to enable members of that scheme to complain about matters concerning the administration of their pension (section 50 of the Pensions Act 1995). Injury awards are no exception.

An IDRP can be a one or two part process. One part may settle the matter, but if not on it goes to part two. Be very aware though that the ‘I’ in IDRP does not stand for Independent. In part one a senior person is asked to consider your submission. If there is no resolution, then someone else is appointed to take a look. That person may be another force employee, or, more often will be someone with no close connection to the force who is deemed to have some relevant expertise. We have no data on how many IDRPs produce an acceptable solution at either stage. The process can take several months.  If a solution isn’t found or the IDRP process is ignored, then it can go to thePensions Ombudsman’s office for adjudication.

But if you don’t initiate an IDRP you will find that the Pensions Ombudsman – who is the person who can really do something about maladministration – will not be able to accept your complaint. He likes to see himself as a mediator, a settler of differences, and an arbiter of the law. He wants to see the parties to a dispute make efforts to resolve it before he is asked to get involved.

Quite often the failure of the PPA to correctly deal with the IDRP stages adds to strength of evidence that maladministration has occurred.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman provides a service to the public by undertaking independent investigations into complaints that government departments, the National Health Service in England and a range of other public bodies in the UK have not acted properly or fairly, or have provided a poor service.

At this time complaints are raised through a person’s MP.  Soon the service will be open to take complaints directly.

This real case story neatly summarises what this ombudsman can do: Read Mr R’s Story.   What happened to Mr R was an example of disability discrimination and serves a good example of the Ombudsman providing redress for the individual – and also recommending systemic improvements for a wider public benefit.  It is a synonym of how some SMPs treat those disabled people forced in front of them.

An important point regarding his ombudsman is that complaints about the exercise of clinical judgement are within its jurisdiction.

Equality and Human Rights Commission & Equality Advisory and Support Service

The Commission has responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Scotland and Wales.  It took over the responsibilities of three former commissions: the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission (which dealt with gender equality) and the Disability Rights Commission.
The EHRC’s functions do not extend to Northern Ireland, where there is a separate Equality Commission (ECNI) and a Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), both established under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) is an advice service. It is aimed at individuals who need expert information, advice and support on discrimination and human rights issues and the applicable law, particularly when this is more than other advice agencies and local organisations can provide.

Judicial review

Judicial review is an audit of the legality of decision-making by public bodies.  Judicial review may be used where there is no right of appeal or where all avenues of appeal have been exhausted

  • when a decision-maker misdirects itself in law, exercises a power wrongly, or improperly purports to exercise a power that it does not have
  • a decision may be challenged as unreasonable if it “is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it”
  • failure to observe statutory procedures or natural justice
  • when a public body is, by its own statements or acts, required to respond in a particular way but fails to do so.

A JR is a remedy of last resort.  However, the Court has a wide discretion to hear cases even if there is an alternative appeal mechanism available in line with M and G v IAT 2004. They successfully argued that the statutory appeal was both procedurally and substantively inadequate to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers.

Applications for JR will be refused are those where there are proceedings in another forum already underway or imminent.

 

We hope this brief guide to routes of appeal will serve to inform and encourage all serving, about to be retired and retired officers who believe they have suffered at the hands of the widespread incompetence and ignorance of the Regulations, so frequently displayed by those in authority over their ill health and injury pensions, to stand up and challenge decisions which they believe are wrong.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to how to appeal. In all cases, you should seek professional advice and assistance before initiating any avenue of appeal or challenge. IODPA can, and will, give initial advice and information, and in some areas the Federation will be knowledgeable and helpful. IODPA retains excellent solicitors who can be instructed by individuals, and funding for them can be obtained via the Federation.

Reasonable Adjustments & Disability Discrimination

Reasonable Adjustments & Disability Discrimination

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Tennyson

For IODPA, the most shocking thing about 2016 wasn’t Brexit, or even the election of Trump. Such ballot-box revolts are to be expected in an era when politics has become so paternalistic and government (and it’s sub-bodies) so estranged and, literally in some cases, out-sourced from the public.

Sadly we’re used to seeing the truth being obfuscated by those senior police staff, the ones who pretend they are in fact the police pension authority when the the scheme of governance says nothing of the sort.

Beings such as Wirz (Northumbria),  Supernintendo Markay (Merseyside), Julian Kern (A&S chief finance officer) & Stephen Mitchell (Notts HR) are bureaucrats that want to abuse the Regulations and then seek to claim credit for cutting costs (when ironically the appeals they create end up costing more); all along applying political strategies, including agenda limitation, scapegoating, ‘passing the buck’ and ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, whilst retaining the politician’s motivation that is driven primarily by the desire to avoid blame. 

No… what has shocked and disturbed us the most this year is the lengths that some doctors, the selected medical practitioners, go to to oppress both those injured police officers and those medically retired. Especially the energy they use in ignoring the medical need of those forced upon them and simultaneously making over-bearing threats of enforcement to their diktats.  This amounts to nothing short of bullying.  One such heinous example is denying the right to allow a  companion into the medical assessments.

Want to take along a Fed rep who knows the Regulations?  Dr Karen Nightingale won’t allow them in the room. Nobody.  Not even a spouse.  She enforces that you have to go alone to be interrogated on pain of ‘non-compliance’.

There is a pattern to the stories we hear.  Everyone of these SMPs reported to us in 2016, those who scream their zealous decrees and threaten the reporting of non-compliance with no hope of appeal, have attended a Northumbria sponsored training seminar that was hosted by Nicholas Wirz the solicitor of that parish, and was organised by the College of Policing.  For those only with a strong constitution, here’s his presentation again.

In 2017 we are planning on releasing a series of posts that will arm you with knowledge of the Equalities Act 2010 (EqA) and for those in Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.  note: In the UK the DDA has now been repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010, except in Northern Ireland where the Act still applies.

Wirz ‘trained‘ SMPs, like Nightingale, Cheng and Broome, think that their role as a SMP lifts them above the hierarchy of UK law.  They think that a medical question defined with a secondary instrument means that they can ignore the primacy of Acts of Parliament, such as the Equality Act 2010 (EqA).

Quasi-Judicial.  That’s what Nichola Wirz attempts to brainwash the delegate SMPs who attends his training seminars into thinking.  Quasi means semi, thus, such bodies which have some characteristics of a judicial body but are not strictly bound by the rules of procedure (unless provided by law) are quasi-judicial bodies.

Here is a sample from the book of Wirz:

In other scenarios where medical practitioners perform a judicial function, taking their authority from the relevant enabling legislation/common law, the GMC has no jurisdiction. An example would be the role of CoronerPOLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION

So in this training seminar, Wirz bizarrely declares that these doctors have a similar power to Coroners.

One fault in many of Wirz’s assertions, is that whilst the role of a coroner is defined is primary legislation – the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 – there is no such legislation defining the role of a SMP.  A medical authority has no power under any Act of Parliament to act as a judge – they are a medical authority and as such are under the remit of the GMC.

Remember that the statutory question asked under the Regulations is a medical question.  A medical authority is defined as requiring registration with the GMC in the Medical Act 1983, specifically in the prosaically titled part two of this act: “Medical Education And Registration Persons Qualifying In The United Kingdom And Elsewhere In The EEC”.

A person is disabled under the EqA if they have a physical or mental impairment and that impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.  Being permanently disabled in relation to Police Injury Regulations means the EqA applies in most circumstances when dealing with injury awards.

Even Coroners aren’t exempted.

So you will see over the next few months a series of blogs looking into disability discrimination and how SMPs and HR employees are failing to give due reasonable adjustments to those medical retired or to police officers on long-term sick leave.

There is no defence against disability discrimination to say ‘processes were followed’.

Reviewing band threes or fours purely because they cost the most = discriminatory.
Setting a five year interval on those you reduce and twelve months on those you increase = discriminatory.

This quasi-judicial phrase spouted by Wirz gives SMPs the false impression that they can do whatever they want, to whomever they want. But another quasi-judicial process has fallen foul of the EqA already when Atos and the DwP faced humiliating legal defeat after Appeal Court judges upheld a decision that the Atos assessments for sickness and disability benefits discriminate against people with mental health conditions.

The injury award process is universally and unnecessarily harsh to all.  Drs  Nightingale, Cheng, and Johnson act like Inquisitor-Generals rather than doctors.  The process is bad enough when the serving or former officer is physically disabled but magnified exponentially for those with PTSD.  Failure to make reasonable adjustment to those with mental illness was dealt with in Secretary Of State For Work And Pensions V MM & DD wherein Lord Justice Elias stated that:

“the Tribunal identified various ways in which [Further Medical Evidence] would assist [people] with a range of mental disabilities, and in my judgment there was sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that [mental health patients] were placed, as a group, at more than a trivial disadvantage”.

One size does not fit all and this is exactly what our upcoming series will show.

Just because there’s a UPP process, it doesn’t mean it should be blindly pursued (Buchanan v The Commissioner of Police of the Met).  A policy of reducing a person onto half-pay or no pay doesn’t mean the process has to be applied to a certain individual (O’Hanlon v Commissioner for HM Customs).

Conversely, we will show when some SMPs say, despite evidence of the opposite, someone isn’t permanently disabled and they should be retained with ‘reasonable adjustment’, that they are not considering the judgement of Hart v Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary 2008 where it was made clear that:

Tribunal did not err in law when it held that the requirements of the regulations which necessitated training and experience in confrontational situations were what it described as an “irreducible minimum” in the training of police constables and it was not therefore open to the respondent to make an adjustment which would have the effect of waiving the strict requirement under the regulations that an individual must be fit physically and mentally to perform the duties of a police constable.

The EqA has quite a far-reaching application.  The case of Paterson v Commissioner of Police of the Met held that a senior police officer had a ‘disability’ within the DDA because of the effect his dyslexia had in a high pressure exam for promotion. The exam was a ‘normal day-to-day activity’.

Those injured on duty have to to deal with their injury on a normal day-to-day activity – in a much, much more life-inhibiting and extreme fashion.

So, even self-declared quasi-judicial SMPs have to abide by reasonable adjustments.  We plan to discuss in more detail Rackham v NHS Professionals Ltd [2015] UKEAT/0110/15.  This Employment Appeal Tribunal categorically asserted that:

“a Tribunal has a duty as an organ of the state, as a public body, to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the disabilities of Claimants.

In other words, everyone involved in the Regulatory process and resultant medical question, from HR drones, to SMPs, to PMABs have to accommodate reasonable adjustments – even, cough!, coroners SMPs aren’t exempt.  And over the next few months we will tell you how your rights should upheld, including informing SMPs that if you need help and a companion in their assessment to assist you in your disabling medical condition, then company you shall have.

Buckle-up for 2017.  It’s going to be an eye-opener.

 

Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas

Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic folklore figure described as “half-goat, half-demon”, who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Krampus is the antithesis of the true Saint Nicholas in regions including Northumbria Legal Services,  Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Northern Italy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

The Christmas season is here!

This time last year we published an IOD themed parody of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.   Rather than starring Ebenezer, our protagonist was a certain senior HR manager of a not-so-imaginary constabulary, hell-bent on reducing the financial impact of those pesky and ‘preposterous injury awards‘™ (©Dr David Bulpitt).

Thankfully, in 2016, that particular HR manager soon was pushed into found  a different job and was no longer tasked with anything injury award related.

A Christmas Carol (Wood)

This year, the ‘fortunate and selfish few‘™ (©Dr David Bulpitt)  would like to apologise in advance to Clement Clarke Moore for taking liberties with his poem  A Visit from St. Nicholas.  We hope it has the same affect on NAMF and their leading acolyte Nicholas Wirz (Principal Solicitor Northumbria Police) as last year’s parody had with Mrs Wood.

Twas the night before Christmas and all though the land,
Those injured on duty were in need of a hand.
The SMPs had excuses all listed with care,
In hopes that injury awards would soon disappear.
“You are just vulnerable!” they all would complain,
We think no-one we see is ever really ill, we’re just on the money gravy-train!”.
When look who appeared! Could this be real?
The Regulations pulling up in a, um … automobile.


“But Nicholas Wirz, is our master when rejecting applications!
and it’s the people at NAMF that tell us to ignore true causation!”
The Regulations smiled at them and encouragingly said,
“It’s up to you to make sure the real law is spread.
You need to ignore Wirz and NAMF and look at the officer’s health.
They need your help, they should have nothing to fear but fear itself.”


“Come closer and listen. If you want to be best,
I’ll share this simple secret to your future success.
If you want to succeed, be real doctors and not complacent,
Remember to always do what’s best for your patients.
WOW the people you examine. Don’t let this ring hollow,
For when you put your patient first, the goodness will follow.”
“Success will be yours when you act like doctors and stop the hustle.
And I’m committed to helping you all be successful!”


“On Judicial Review! On Pension Ombudsman! The bad you do will be chased!
On Case-law! Ignore NAMF guidance! We must make haste!
You shall jettison Wirz! To do it right just abide by me!
Together we can create a lawful Regulation recovery!”


The Regulations winked and smiled; then put the car into gear,
But before driving away, one more statement did we hear.
“Those HR thieves and SMP crooks will soon be all in jail.
And the best SMPs who are true doctors will prevail.”
We heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
“This month of Christmas is the start – from now, administer injury awards right!”

Wherever you are in the world, whatever injustice you are fighting, and whoever you’re with, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thank you for reading our website this year.

Here’s to justice and an even more successful 2017!

Just Vulnerable or Permanently Disabled?

Just Vulnerable or Permanently Disabled?

“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.”
Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments With Truth

As certain forces continue on their hell-bent course of denying ill or injured officers their pension rights a pattern is developing.  Some Selected Medical Practitioners (SMPs) are labelling applicants with diagnosed PTSD or similar mental illness as ‘only’ having a ‘vulnerability’

Retirement on an ill health pension needs a SMP to decide that an illness or injury is likely to permanently disable the individual from working as a police officer. Some forces want to save the cash, so will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the need to pay award an ill health pension.

To back up their assertion that medical retirement is inappropriate where the illness or injury is PTSD, as they say that condition is not permanent, SMPs are citing two High Court decisions, which they claim justify their view.

Today, more often than not, when the critical question delegated to SMPs, ‘Is this serving officer permanently disabled?’ the decision given is a rubber-stamped answer like this:vulnerable-refused

So when an application for ill-health retirement (IHR) is refused why are SMPs using the ‘vulnerable’ label?

The short answer is that it’s because they are relying on two cases, one concerning Northumbria and the other concerning Derbyshire. These are both force areas well known for their aggressive, acrimonious and antagonistic attempts to deny retired and serving officers their pension rights.

The cases are R (Northumbria Police Authority) v Broome [2006] ICR 555
and
R (Sidwell) v Police Medical Appeal Board v The Chief Constable of the Derbyshire Constabulary [2015] EWHC 122 (Admin).

By focusing on these two high court decisions some SMPs are attempting to imply things often not relevant to the circumstances. They use the cases as a rejection crib-sheet. It is rather like someone who claims that eating a certain wonder food prevents cancer, but neglects to mention that you would need to eat six pounds of it each day, for ever, for it to have any effect. They thus tell only part of the truth.

These SMPs are selective in their presentation of supporting case law. They fail to point to the case which contradicts and negates their view.

They conveniently fail to mention a much more recent judicial review. That of
Sharp v West Yorkshire Police & Anor [2016] EWHC 469 (Admin) (07 March 2016).
We will come back to this case in detail later.

Let us first discuss the Northumbria judicial review. No doubt this force’s nefarious force solicitor, Nicholas Wirz – skulking and slithering behind the scenes – was the protagonist who advised his Chief Constable to challenge the decision of his own SMP, Dr Jonathan Broome.

What happened was that, in 2005, officers Alison Doyle and Madeline Clementson both claimed permanent disability, which Dr Broome agreed existed and so was certified by him. Northumbria disagreed and challenged his decision – their own doctor! – by way of judicial review.

While based in Bamburgh, PC Madeline Clementson, was injured through being dragged along the road by a suspect’s van. Dr Broome, who assessed her, said she suffered panic disorder and agoraphobia along with an intractable antipathy towards her police role.

He added that although her physical injuries had not made her permanently incapable of performing her duties, she was plagued by symptoms of low mood and anxiety which could be worsened by a return to police duties.

In PC Alison Doyle’s case, Broome said there were several factors stopping her from returning to work including spinal pain, vulnerability to anxiety and her enmity towards Northumbria Police.

The doctor found she had developed such an entrenched aversion to returning to police duties of any sort that the prospect of doing so might well trigger mental ill-health.

Dr Broome said Alison had “an emnity towards Northumbria Police as an organisation” and would even have difficulty performing civilian duties for the force and he said that Madeline had such an “entrenched aversion to going back to police duties of any sort” that the prospect of doing so could trigger mental ill-health.

Both PCs lost the judicial review because neither had a definitive medical diagnosis.  Although both officers were given medical retirement by Broome, he failed to medically diagnose them or refer them to someone who could, so Mr Justice Bennet upheld the challenge and overturned the permanent disability certificates issued to the ex-officers.

It is important to note that a court will inevitably never challenge a medical opinion, for it is not competent to do so. It is a medical matter, and a court lacks the medical qualifications necessary to make any comment or judgement on medical matters. A court can, and will, determine matters of fact and law.

Northumbria took two of it’s officers all the way to the High Court to win a battle over an issue which could have been easily been sorted out without recourse to such stressful and expensive means. The judicial review served only to delay resolution at a horrendous personal cost to Alison Doyle and Madeline Clementson.

The reason why Northumbria won the original judicial review was simply that neither Doyle nor Clementson had a definitive diagnosis which could be found categorised in the World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases (ICD-version 10)

As Mr Justice Bennet put it;

Vulnerability”, “enmity”, and “intractable antipathy” do not appear in internationally authoritative guides available to doctors such as ICD-10 and DSM IV

In a twist to the sorry state of affairs, Alison Doyle took Northumbria to an Employment Appeals Tribunal in 2012:
http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2012/0576_11_1712.html
In this EAT it is shown that four years later, in 2009, Doyle eventually got the IHR she asked for:

‘However, in a subsequent report dated 15 July 2009, Dr Broome recommended that Ms Doyle should be retired on medical grounds.  The Acting Chief Officer took a “holistic” view of her case, namely that her psychiatric condition, which in his view did not on its own amount to a permanent disability, should be taken into account.  Accordingly, on 21 August 2009 Ms Doyle was retired on medical grounds on the basis of her combined psychiatric and spinal problems.’

It seems that by 2009, Alison Doyle had secured a definitive diagnosis and so was, in the end, medically retired – the whole saga of the judicial review was pointless and unnecessary.  Instead of taking it’s officers to judicial review, Northumbria could have spent the money on getting both officers diagnosed by specialist clinicians, for far less cost and with far less stress caused to two damaged individuals.

The take home from this is that a line is drawn by this High Court decision. Once an officer has a recognised medical condition their case becomes distinguishable from the situation experienced by Madeline Clementson and Alison Doyle.

When an officer has a categorised diagnosis, rather than some wishy-washy opinon stated in vague terms by idiots like Broome,  matters have crossed the line into there being a recognised  infirmity.

When there is an ICD-10 diagnosis an “intractable antipathy” may well be noted, but only as a symptom of the infirmity, and not the infirmity itself.

And so on to the Sidwell judicial review.  This case involved the now deceased Dr Ralph Sampson who worked as a SMP for Derbyshire.

An unfortunate sequence of events led to DS Andrew Sidwell’s marriage failing and him then being made homeless after a colleague, who let him share his house, was investigated for corruption – an allegation that was later proved false and which, some believe, was based on a Professional Standards Department witch-hunt.  Homeless, he further suffered a forced transfer to another department, and this all led DS Sidwell into a spiral of understandable anger, resentment, embitterment and antipathy towards Derbyshire police.

Dr Michelle Shepherd, a consultant psychiatrist, diagnosed DS Sidwell as having situational anxiety disorder.  Dr Sampson refused medical retirement as he claimed that, ‘situational anxiety … is not permanently disabling’.

DS Sidwell saw another consultant psychiatrist to help an appeal he made against this decision to a Police Medical Appeal Board (PMAB). Consultant Maria Isaac assessed DS Sidwell and determined that his,

‘. . . anxiety is severe enough to approach phobic intensity. However I could find no evidence of significant underlying psychiatric illness or impairment’.

During the PMAB, one of the consultant psychiatrist panelists, Dr Karim Rajput, stated,

“I would classify him with an ICD-10 diagnosis of anxiety disorder, unspecified (F44.9)’

Despite this, the Board concluded (using a confusing double-negative to do so) that successful treatment of his condition was “not unlikely” and that therefore “he is not suffering a permanently disabling psychological condition’.

Consequently the appeal was dismissed and Sidwell was refused medical retirement.

Soon after, Derbyshire instigated Unsatisfactory Performance Procedures (UPP) against DS Sidwell citing inadequate attendance at work.  The Federation sent Sidwell to see yet another consultant psychiatrist. This time a Dr Qureshi diagnosed Sidwell’s condition as a permanently disabling chronic phobic anxiety disorder.

Derbyshire’s newly appointed SMP for this case was a Dr Geoffrey Davies who proclaimed that DS Sidwell’s condition would improve if he left the police service and as such has he has,

‘. . . a vulnerability to being in the police but does not have a permanent disablement.’

Another PMAB was held and another panelist, Dr Nehaul, disagreed with the diagnosis made by Dr Qureshi and the panel took Dr Nehaul’s view that the Mixed Affective Disorder diagnosis could not be right as there was no evidence of mania. Dr Nehaul devotes rather more words to demolishing Dr Qureshi’s diagnoses.

It is important to note that, unlike a court of law, a PMAB, can comment on and decide on medical matters, as all the Board members are themselves doctors.

The Board concluded,

‘Whilst having enormous sympathy for the position in which Mr Sidwell finds himself, the unanimous decision of the Board is that he does not have a permanent disabling medical condition which would prevent him from carrying out the ordinary duties of a Police Officer and therefore the appeal is rejected.’

This then went to judicial review where Mr Justice Mostyn rejected the claim that the PMAB’s decision was wrong and decided that,

‘The Board was entitled to prefer the opinion of Dr Nehaul to that of Dr Qureshi as to whether there existed a medical condition which caused the relevant inability.’

So the Sidwell case hinged on a spat between two consultant psychiatrist who failed to agree with each other and the judge decided there was not a point of law or fact in which the court could make a determination, given that there has to be considerable respect to the decision of an expert and informed tribunal.

In simple terms you could say that with the saga of Madeline Clementson and Alison Doyle (where there was no definitive diagnosis made), we can see their cases were the complete inverse to that of Sidwell v Derbyshire – wherein too many diagnoses existed!

Returning the question of this post.  How can a SMP on first seeing a serving injured officer use these cases to assert vulnerability?  If there is a diagnosed infirmity then the Rubicon for Doyle & Clementson is crossed.  If there is no PMAB and no quarrel between eminent consultants over what the condition actually is, then Sidwell is irrelevant.

This brings us to the latest judicial review, heard in 2016, of Sharp v West Yorkshire.

Mr Sharp suffered from anxiety on a number of occasions before he joined the police. He was in fact initially rejected by the police on medical grounds.  In 2011, whilst under UPP, he resigned and in 2013 he made an application for an ill health award. This was subsequently refused by the SMP, Dr Dagens.

He appealed and his PMAB submission was supported by a report from Professor Rix, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, who gave a diagnosis of recurrent depressive disorder (F33.4 ICD-10) and concluded,

The primary issue appears to be whether or not the Appellant is permanently disabled. Critical to this is the Appellant’s vulnerability. That vulnerability is his paranoid attitude. This is a permanent feature of his character or personality. It is when that attitude engages with management, as inevitably it would, that the Appellant would suffer a recurrence of his depressive disorder and be unable to perform all of the ordinary duties of a police officer. It therefore appears to me that the issue for the Board will be whether or not such vulnerability in itself amounts to a permanent disability for the purposes of the Regulations.

The PMAB rejected the appeal.  It had concluded,

‘Whilst his attitude may indeed make him more vulnerable to further episodes of depression, the Board does not consider such attitude equates to an infirmity with regards to the Police Pension Regulations. Likewise vulnerability arising from this attitude would not be regarded as permanently disabling. This is consistent with the case law on vulnerability.’

“Case law on vlunerabilty”.  Interesting use of the phrase there.  Just saying it doesn’t make it true and in reality the PMAB catastrophically failed to understand the precedents on vulnerability

It was accepted that Sharp suffered from a recurrent depressive disorder.  It was therefore unnecessary (and irrelevant) to consider whether Mr Sharp’s attitude was also an infirmity.  By trying to deny Sharp ill-health retirement and bending case-law to fit their objectives the PMAB failed to test whether Mr Sharp’s recurrent depressive disorder was sufficiently serious to amount to a permanent disablement.

Sharp requested a Regulation 32 reconsideration on the basis that Professor Rix’s report was misunderstood and the conclusion taken out of context. This reconsideration went to the same PMAB panel for a re-decision.  Unsurprisingly (and true to form), the PMAB panel stuck to it’s original decision to reject the application and finished by saying,

though mention of paranoid attitude in reports may suggest possibility of a personality trait, it would not amount to a disorder in the context of this case. The Board does not agree that likelihood of recurrence and persistent illness and ensuing disability despite optimal treatment is so strong, in this instance, as to fulfil the criteria for permanent disability

It was this second PMAB decision that went to judicial review.

Judge Brehens rejected West Yorkshire’s argument that both the Broome, Clementson & Doyle and the Sidwell case was applicable to Sharp.  The key to the Sharp judgement was that is was found that the PMAB asked the wrong question of infirmity and they wrongly considered the paranoid attitude to be the disorder.

So Judge Brehens found in favour of Sharp and overturned the PMAB decision by saying

I am satisfied that the PMAB ought to have held that Mr Sharp’s recurrent depressive disorder was an infirmity within the meaning reg A(12)(5). It was unnecessary and wrong to go on to consider whether his paranoid attitude was also an infirmity. It was a cause of the infirmity not the infirmity itself. I agree with Mr Lock QC that Mr Sharp had indeed crossed Bennett J’s line and was a recognised medical condition.

Judge Brehens continued,

‘Mr Sharp’s paranoid attitude is one of the causes of the severity of the recurrent depressive disorder.’

In other words, the Board had taken a symptom instead of the illness itself as reason to declare that disablement was not likely to be permanent.

Someone being, in the opinion of a SMP, merely ‘vulnerable‘ or having an ‘antipathy‘ towards their employers should not mean they are refused medical retirement. The vulnerability could be a symptom of a recognised, categorised condition which the SMP, for whatever reason has failed to diagnose. Those reasons may be simple medical incompetence, but worryingly could also be the result of deliberate policy by the force and SMP in collusion to prevent granting injury awards.

We pointed out above that law courts can’t second-guess medical opinion as they are not medical experts. PMABs, conversely are a medically expert arena, but have unfortunately consistently shown that when it comes to the law they are woefully unable to grasp the issues.

It does seem odd that PMABs are allowed to consider legal aspects at all. And if PMABs can misinterpret the case-law, do think it wise to trust any legal opinion of a lowly SMP?

For those officers with reports saying that their ill-health retirement is rejected due to’ vulnerability’ or any other vague and ill-defined phrase, please look carefully at any stated cases quoted by the SMP purporting to underpin his decision. It’s a sure bet that Sharp, the latest case-law on vulnerability, will have been omitted.

Ignoring something relevant which fails to prove one’s point is not how UK law operates.  You may have grounds to appeal whenever a SMP starts referencing case law.  An appeal to a PMAB will take you before a panel of doctors but the Board may have no better understanding of legal points than does the SMP.

IODPA does not suggest never going to PMAB, but we do strongly advise that you seek expert legal advice from one or other of the two excellent solicitors we refer our members to. A judicial review, based on errors of fact or law may be a better route than a PMAB.  Or if you are currently in proceedings for a PMAB look very carefully at the submission made by the police pension authority – are they relying on proving vulnerability whilst ignoring both your definitive diagnosis and the Sharp decision?

Alternatively, ask IODPA to provide you with information about how to use regulation 32 to have a SMP reconsider a decision which you believe errs in fact, law, or medical opinion.

Serving officers are facing hard times should they become ill or injured and are seeking ill heath retirement. It will not now be an easy path. However, it need not be an impossible path, provided that they seek professional advice and help at the earliest stage. SMPs, Police Pension Authorities, Chief Constables and their HR managers and legal ‘experts’ make so many mistakes that a challenge to a decision not to award an ill health pension has a very good chance of success.

Besides, why should you let the tyrants get away with it?

Mr R has learning disabilities and a mental health condition. He went overseas on holiday to stay with some family friends. His parents had intended to travel with him but were unable to do so because of his father’s ill health. This was the first time that Mr R had travelled abroad alone.
On his return he was stopped at his local airport by two trainee customs officers because he was carrying a large amount of tobacco. He was then interviewed about his trip abroad, how it had been funded, and the tobacco. Contrary to the UK Border Agency’s own guidance, the customs officers did not check at the start of the interview whether Mr R was fit and well, or whether he had any medical condition they needed to be aware of. Nor did they ask him to read and sign the notes of the interview. If they had done, they would have discovered that Mr R could not read or write. The officers strip searched Mr R - at one point leaving him naked.
One of the reasons given for the strip-search was that Mr R appeared ‘nervous’ and ‘evasive’ when questioned. Although Mr R had referred to his disabilities and one of the officers had written ‘Mental health problems, disability’ in his notebook, the officers simply continued with the interview and the search. No drugs were found. Mr R was eventually allowed to leave, but the tobacco he had been carrying was seized. My investigation found that the UK Border Agency had not had regard to Mr R’s disability rights in the way that it had carried out its functions. As soon as Mr R referred to his disabilities, the customs officers should have stopped the interview and re-arranged it so that an appropriate adult could be present. Instead they had pressed on regardless, they had failed to follow the Agency’s own interviewing protocols, which might have helped them to identify Mr R’s disabilities and deal with him appropriately as a vulnerable adult. An appropriate adult should have been able to explain that Mr R’s difficulties in answering questions were due to his learning disabilities and not evidence of evasive behaviour. Not only was it unlikely that the encounter would have progressed so far as a strip search, but Mr R would have had the support and protection he was entitled to in what for him was a terrifying situation. Not surprisingly, he never wanted to go near an airport again. We upheld the complaint. The UK Border Agency apologised to Mr R and paid him £5,000 compensation for the distress, humiliation and anxiety they had caused him. In an attempt at restorative justice we asked the Agency to explore with Mr R and his mother what they might do to enable Mr R to feel comfortable using his local airport in future. The Agency also agreed to review the disability awareness training provided to their customs officers, with a particular emphasis on identifying non-visible disabilities such as learning disabilities and mental health conditions.

This group of police force HR managers, occupational health personnel and the odd force solicitor is supposedly concerned in its quarterly meetings with keeping the police workforce fit and well. The clue is in the name - it is supposed to concentrate on people who work. However, it spends time also considering matters relating to disabled former officers. Quite what legitimates this group's interest in disabled private citizens who are in receipt of a police injury pension is a mystery.

The mystery deepens when it is revealed that the Home Office and representatives of the commercial company which has the contract to run Police Medical Appeal Boards, HML, also regularly appear on the list of delegates. The mystery morphs into something smelling of conspiracy when the delegate list is entirely absent of any representative of any of the people whose lives the NAMF seeks to affect. There is nobody from the Police Federation, nor from NARPO, nor anyone from any disablement charity, mental health association, etc. etc. In other words, the NAMF is a one-sided talking shop. Even at that level it is not properly representative of all police forces, for we note that there are rarely, if ever, delegates present from every area.

Those of us with long memories, recollect that the Home Office claimed that it had conducted what it called a 'survey' of all forces, way back in 2004, prior to finalising its unlawful guidance issued as Annex C to HO circular 46/2004. The HO claimed that their survey showed that it was common practice for forces to review the degree of disablement of injury-on-duty pensioners once they reached what would have been normal force retirement age. This is what the guidance said:

'This Guidance is being issued to help ensure a fairer, more cohesive approach to the payment of injury benefits to ill-health retired officers who have reached the compulsory retirement age with their Force. A recent survey found that practice in this area was diverse. Some forces automatically reduced degree of disablement benefits to the lowest banding when this age had been reached - others continued to pay benefits at the same rate until the death of the Officer concerned.'

The plain truth, revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests, was that there never was any survey. The HO later tried to claim that the bold, unmistakable claim made in its guidance resulted from 'round the table discussions' at meetings of the NAMF. Yet nothing even hinting at such discussions appeared in the minutes and the HO could not produce a single scrap of data nor any record or any other evidence to show quite how it had come to the conclusion that some forces automatically reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age.

Shockingly, further research revealed that absolutely no forces, not a single one out of the 43 in England and Wales, had ever reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age, automatically or otherwise. The Home Office was caught out in a blatant lie. It was a lie intended for one purpose only - its actually intent was to give an air of normalcy to the huge change in practice which the HO wished to bring about.

This astounding act by a Government department tells us what the NAMF was then, and remains now. It's objective in so far as police injury on duty pensions is concerned, is to subvert the law of the land. The law cannot be changed retrospectively, so the inner circle work to find ways to unlawfully manipulate it through influencing gullible HR managers, and by training carefully selected corruptible SMPs how to refuse grant of an injury award and how to conduct reviews which reduce the degree of disablement of retired officers.

And so the machinations of the NAMF continue...