“Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now”
― David Bowie
Steve Ashman, Chief Constable of Northumbria police, found himself in the news this week. He dismissed criticism by the NSPCC of the decision to pay an informant who is a convicted child rapist to secure a set of child grooming convictions.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ashman said: “I accept that some people will not agree with position we have taken, but I have to be content, on the back of the convictions we have secured to date, that it was the right thing to do.”
Our readers understand all too well the the use of informers is a real dilemma … sometimes risks have to be taken and the police have to adopt strategies which at first blush would appear to be awkward and unpleasant. It is a sad fact that any informant who needs to be paid to help the police will be of dubious character, and many will have criminal histories.
It’s newsworthy that the NSPCC – UK’s leading children’s charity – feels it wasn’t proportional that a convicted child rapist was paid £9,680 by Northumbria over 21 months to find out about the times and whereabouts of ‘sessions’ where girls were being plied with drugs and alcohol. The NSPCC are entitled to raise the matter. We think this is an operational matter for Northumbria to justify. Ashman said the NSPCC had got its facts wrong.
Police had to make a decision and – while unpleasant – if paying a convicted child rapist £10,000 gives the information needed to bring a swift conclusion to another criminal enterprise intent on the sexual abuse and rape of vulnerable children, then it is surely a price worth paying.
There is no nuanced argument, however, that condones how Ashman allows his force, on his watch, to decimate the income of those injured on duty.
That being said, the NSPCC is a victim of the same trite dismissal of a valid concern that is the usual response IODPA has familiarity with when the police defend their actions concerning injury awards. Telling the media the NSPCC has “their facts wrong” is a media soundbite but it helps no-one when concerns are disregarded in this manner.
As with the NSPCC, we in IODPA also are seeking answers from Northumbria. We would like to know how CC Ashman thinks he can justify the way he is systemically setting about impoverishing severely disabled former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. The stink rising from Northumbria on this issue is a miasma like that of an untended public toilet.
Could you please provide the below information regarding the Injury on Duty awards to ex police offices. How many IODs does NP have and please provide a breakdown of each that are in bands 1-4 How Many Reviews have been carried and of what band Whether any were increased.If so by how many bands Whether any Decreased and if so by how many bands Whether any remained the same.
For our readers who aren’t aware of how the amount of injury pension due to officers injured on duty to the extent they can no longer work as a police officer is calculated, there are four bands or levels of payment, each of which covers a range of degree of disablement: band one covers 0% to 25% (slight disablement); band two more than 25% to 50% (minor); band three is more than 50% to less than 75% (major); band four is the highest band and covers very severe disablement 75% to 100%.
Will Northumbria tell us our facts are wrong? They can try. The statistics are theirs.
The amount of pension paid may be revised should an individual experience a substantial improvement, or a substantial worsening, of their degree of disablement. A Chief Constable can conduct a ‘review’ of any individual’s degree of disablement, subject to certain conditions.
In the above Freedom of Information Act request Northumbria police admits to carrying out sixteen reviews from January 2016.
Of the sixteen reviewed, twelve have been decreased. A shocking 75%. As horrendous a statistic as this is, it is abhorrent to read that three of those on a band four injury award were reduced to a band one – in other words from the highest degree of disablement to the lowest. Three other band fours were reduced to a band two and five on a band three were reduced to a band one.
Some context: Merseyside reviewed 502 by use of quantifying salary only in the enforced compliance of filling out a, now discredited, questionnaire. Merseyside reduced 25 out of 502 – 5% had their injured award lowered in bands. Let us remind you that Merseyside had threatened those retired from the force with a review if their salary increased by 10%. Don’t believe us? Here is the letter sent by Peter Owens.
So it’s fair to say, as far as the Regulations are administered lawfully, Merseyside fail. Even still, they only reduced 5% of those reviewed. Northumbria has reduced 75%
These aren’t just reductions. This isn’t simply substantial change, an improvement to a person’s degree of disablement that has resulted in a drop of a band – this is wholesale slaughter of the income of those injured on duty.
We can guess that most of the reductions are being made on wrong assumption made by Dr Broome, Northumbria’s SMP, that co-morbidities are competing with the person’s inability to earn. In other words Northumbria is claiming that the presence of one or more additional diseases or disorders co-occurring with (that is, concomitant or concurrent with) the recorded duty injury means a person can go from 100% degree of disablement to zero percent.
Likely as not there has been no change to disabling effects of the duty injury in any of these cases. No change to circumstances of the person regards to the capacity to earn. Northumbria is reducing people who have been band four or three for many years without change, just because they are carrying out a policy to reduce that is unlawful as well as insultingly aggressive. Chief Constable Ashman tells us that he is concerned about protecting vulnerable young girls whilst he is busily engaged on a programme to destroy the pensions of honest, loyal former officers who had the misfortune to be injured whilst performing their duties.
Many of the injury pensioners are vulnerable too. Forget the image of the rufty-tufty copper and picture instead a shell of a human being, reduced to a life of constant anxiety and plagued with flashbacks, insomnia, depression and all the other symptoms that come with a mind damaged beyond repair by the harsh realities of police work.
If the Regulations called for a reduction to the lowest percentage when a person suffers from Parkinson’s disease or a cancer, then it would explicitly say as such. Northumbria is raising Home Office circular 46/2004 from the grave. Instead of automatic reduction at 65 years of age, this time a person is reduced when advancing age equates to advancing illnesses.
Or Northumbria has seen a dozen walking miracles. Either it is unlawful or what is happening in Northumbria could called by biblical name: the Lazarus effect, after the story in which Jesus stands outside the tomb of Lazarus of Bethany and summons him back to life.
We have heard anecdotal accounts that the Police Federation in Northumbria will never sign off a C2 funding form to provide much-needed legal aid to any injury pensioner who is facing an unlawful reduction of their injury pension. We say that any reduction from a band four to a zero percent band one should automatically be heard in front of a police medical appeal board (PMAB).
The matter the NSPCC took up with the media isn’t as black and white and there are intricacies to any payment to an informant that has grey areas. What Northumbria is doing to medically retired former officers has no such complexity.
Northumbria has a policy that is contrary to law and they must be called to account before the misery spreads.