“A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”
― C.S. Lewis,
Gareth Morgan, the newly appointed Chief Constable of Staffordshire, who takes up his post on the 19th June, has a problem.
During his tenure as Deputy Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police he will have become well aware that maladministration of police injury pensions leads inevitably to increased costs, litigation and disaffection amongst serving officers. Gareth witnessed how attempts to subvert, twist, or bypass the Regulations governing injury pensions achieved nothing more than the transfer of large amounts of ratepayers’ money into the pockets of a certain Dr Phillip Johnson.
This less than eminent medical practitioner, was paid to carry out reviews on the degree of disablement of former officers who are in receipt of injury pensions. In over three years and forty-six billed days he managed only six for which he was paid £146,000 Avon and Somerset Police Pension Authority (PPA) , which is none other than the single personage of the current Chief Constable, has been forced to make a humiliating u-turn and has announced that the planned mass review programme is abandoned.
The force has no will to attempt any further reviews. So, when Gareth becomes the PPA in Staffordshire, what will he make of that force’s plans to hold a similar unlawful programme of mass reviews? He can’t claim he is not very well aware of the issues, for in November 2013, the College of Policing started a scoping review of forces’ management of Police Medical Appeal Boards (PMAB). Gareth agreed to act as the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the exercise. Tellingly it was then Chief Constable Mike Cunningham of Staffordshire Police, in his capacity as the Workforce Development Business Area Lead, who for reasons unknown, requested this commission.
The College of Policing soon increased the scope of the review from the original issue of PMABs to the management of police officer ill health retirements and injury on duty assessments, as these areas form the basis of any appeal to a PMAB. And the conclusions Morgan’s College-backed enquiry came to? Given pride of place was the startling figure that appeals against the mistakes made by HR managers and SMPs had cost forces some £4.3 million pounds since 2008. The enquiry revealed that the ill health retirement process is in chaos, with poorly trained personnel performing functions they don’t understand, regularly failing police officers.
It is recognised that these processes are complex and expensive to the force and potentially led to a disservice of officers who have been injured in the line of duty.
Morgan also accepts there have been a number of occasions in recent years when the established practice of police forces, supported by the Home Office, in interpreting the meaning of the 2006 Regulations, has been found to be inconsistent with the true wording of the Regulations!
6 At the time of writing, very few forces are currently engaged in performing
reviews of previous IoD decisions, many having not done so since the Home
Office correspondence in 10 March 2010 following critical case law. The issues
relating to the appropriateness of conducting reviews notwithstanding, the
decision not to review has resulted in a significant degradation of the skill level of those staff members who had previous experience of this work. Many of whom, as a result of ongoing financial cuts to relevant departments, are no longer working for the police service.
The ‘Home Office correspondence’ referred to was a letter from the HO advising that all forces cease reviews, pending a seminal judicial review upcoming in the Administrative Court. That case concerned a former Met officer, Belinda Laws. She won her case. The reviews then being conducted in some forces were unlawful as they were based on the infamous guidance issued by the Home Office in Annex C to its circular 46/2004.
The Home Office later suffered a hammer blow when it had to concede the guidance was unlawful and withdrew it. The Home Office gave a clear indication in a later judicial review case that it was unlikely to want to issue any revised guidance, or indeed, any further guidance whatever concerning injury awards and ill health retirement processes.
Peter Spreadbury, then Head of the Police Pensions and Retirement Policy Section within the Home Office gave a witness statement in the case of Simpson held at Leeds High Court in February 2012. He stated,
‘Should it appear that repeated legal challenges and uncertainty are likely to continue in this area, one possible option is the withdrawal of the relevant guidance and the abandonment of any attempt to give central guidance on the topic.’
Well, legal challenges have continued apace, and uncertainty within HR departments has increased, and the Home Office has withdraw its guidance, and it remains sensibly silent on all matters concerning injury pensions. The ball is firmly in the court of each PPA. They can expect no overt help from the Home Office, though we know that august Department of State sends a representative to meetings of the National Welfare and Engagement Forum. We believe this is more to keep an eye on the rampant idiocy which is displayed there than to try to advise more unlawful attempts to subvert the Regulations.
It is reasonable to assume then that Gareth Morgan is more acquainted than most Chief Officers with the institutional failures of HR departments to properly administer the police injury benefit Regulations.
Gareth also knows first hand of the most vile abuse foisted on vulnerable disabled officers, for it was in Avon and Somerset that the now deceased Dr Reginald Bunting was allowed free rein to practice his sexual perversions on officers and former officers who he was called upon to examine.
Speaking about Operation Hay which investigated the historical abuse he went on record as saying:
“Anyone requiring a police medical examination held on police premises by a police doctor should have had an expectation of being safe. It is clear that the conduct of some of these medical examinations fell well below this standard.~Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan
Wishful thinking on Gareth’s part, for the day after Avon & Somerset decided enough was enough in their abuse of those injured on duty, the Bristol Post reported that more victims have come forward:
The police investigation into a pervert Bristol doctor is being continued as more potential victims have come forward. Dr Reginald Bunting was said to have been ‘inappropriate’ towards 52 police recruits and staff while he worked for Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Investigations into the doctor’s behaviour and complaints made about him ended this year after a two-year probe.
So, Gareth Morgan’s problem as he takes up his new post is this: he now has a choice to make. Does his follow the lead of his former boss in Avon and Somerset, Chief Constable Andy Marsh and halt the reviews, or does he continue to zealously pursue Staffordshire’s review program as if nothing has happened?
Will we see Morgan fall back on repeating the tired and empty mantra in respect of reviews where various administrators have falsely claimed the Regulations say they “shall“ conduct reviews, or that they are “obliged to review“ as they have “a positive duty” to review? Will Morgan chose to ignore the looming disaster that Staffordshire’s proposed mass review programme will bring? Will he chose to ignore all the evidence which proves most, if not all, forces are utterly incapable of administering police injury pensions within the law?
To add to his problem he has to take ownership of the ill-judged and illegal Staffordshire 2008 “agreement“ which favoured certain IOD pensioners at the expense of others. He will have a tangled mess to attempt unravelling now that Staffordshire’s IOD pensioners have realised the agreement was not worth the paper it was written on. Staffordshire will have to deal with that before it could even contemplate holding any reviews – unless of course Gareth has the stomach for a costly round of appeals and trips to the Administrative Court.
We hope that new Chief Constable Gareth Morgan will look back on his time with Avon and Somerset and reflect on the sour sans-apology June 12th letter to all IOD pensioners from Julian Kern on behalf of Avon & Somerset Police Pension Authority cancelling what he called the “automatic reviews“.
Of course the term “automatic review” is an euphemism for holding reviews only for the purpose of discovering whether there has been substantial alteration in degree of disablement. This, as regular readers of these blogs will know, is not a lawful process. A review held without first deciding there has been a suitable interval since the previous decision on degree of disablement is unlawful. A review, with a decision required by a SMP, held without there first being a process of considering whether there is any evidence of the probability of a substantial alteration is unlawful. A review held without any individual consideration of individual circumstances is unlawful. A review held with a view to saving money is unlawful.
The Regulations prohibit anything which might be called an ‘automatic review’. The fact that Kern used this phrase, in what we sincerely hope will be the last letter he is allowed to pen for Avon and Somerset Police Pension Authority, sums up all we need to know about the sheer incompetence of the man. He knows nothing about the Regulations.
We will touch in later blogs about Kern’s reference to suspension of reviews pending future legislation or Home Office guidance but suffice to say IODPA is confident there will be no retrospective legislation, nor will the Home Office ever offer any more central guidance.
Avon and Somerset’s climb-down suspension of all reviews sends a strong signal to Staffordshire, and the other few forces which are still mistakenly in thrall to the idea that reviews can save them money. It also tells anyone who cares to listen that the hugely ignorant and dangerous guidance issued by Nicholas Wirz via the the National Wellbeing and Engagement Forum is a poisoned chalice.
IODPA wishes Mr Morgan well in his new role in Staffordshire. We hope that once he is his own boss, free of the shackles of being merely the number two he was in Avon and Somerset, that he will make some sensible decisions and not only halt the proposed mass review programme, but set about clearing up the historic mess that is the administration of police injury pensions in that area.