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Elsewhere on our web site are numerous comments concerning the action taken by Staffordshire Police in reducing the pension payments due to a group of disabled former officers. The comments make clear the feelings engendered in reaction to this dramatic turn of events.
IODPA has refrained from making comment as the issue is undoubtedly going to be subject to prompt legal challenge.
However, we can give an account of what has happened so far.
Officers who are injured on duty to such an extent they can no longer perform the ordinary duties of a constable can be required to retire. They can be awarded a one-off gratuity payment plus a pension, payable for life, as compensation for no-fault injury.
The compensation scheme is governed by The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006, which is secondary legislation made by a Minister of State under provision of The Police Pensions Act 1976.
The Regulations, specifically regulation 37, allow the question of degree of disablement to be considered from time to time, as appropriate, for it is recognised that the disabling effects of duty injuries may worsen or lessen. If there has been a substantial alteration, then the amount of pension paid can be revised accordingly.
On 26th April 2017 Staffordshire Police commenced a programme intended to review the degrees of disablement of the over 300 former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension.
The programme quickly ran into difficulties as pensioners raised issues questioning the legality of the programme, both in concept and in detail.
A number of pensioners refused to give permission, on the grounds that their personal data enjoyed detailed protection under data protection law and that there is nothing in the 2006 Regulations to require a former officer to submit any medical records made by any other doctor to the force or to any doctor employed by the force.
A further concern expressed by some pensioners was that they had no confidence Staffordshire Police was capable of conducting the review process lawfully. The content of various policy and process documents created by Staffordshire Police concerning the review programme arguably contained misinformation and misrepresentation of law.
A number of reviews were held, and the doctor tasked by Staffordshire Police to decide whether there had been any alteration in degree of disablement reported that, in some instances, due to the absence of permission to access medical records, he could not make a decision. The doctor later withdrew himself from any further involvement in the review process.
In December 2017 Staffordshire Police published a letter which sought to apportion all blame on the difficulties being experienced to, ‘a small number of individuals’.
It emerged that in the majority of instances where pensioners had refused unrestricted access to their medical records no decision was made on alteration of degree of disablement, despite it being a requirement of the relevant regulation (regulation 30) that the appointed doctor is referred the question ‘for decision’.
Each of the individuals concerned had attended an appointment arranged by the force with the force’s doctor. They answered all questions which were put to them, and allowed themselves to be medically examined where this was requested. Some provided medical evidence showing there had been no alteration in their degree of disablement. in some cases, the pensioners were recalled within months to attend a second medical examination. Again, they fully complied.
On 26th November 2018, we reported that seventeen pensioners had had their pensions reduced.
This is the letter that was sent out to those who had refused permission for unrestricted access to their medical records. We reproduce a redacted copy of one of those letters here.Morgan letter redacted
The letters announce that Staffordshire Police has turned to regulation 33, which it relies on as giving authority to reduce the injury pensions of those who had refused permission for unrestricted access to their medical and access to financial records.
It is worth reproducing regulation 33 here:
Refusal to be medically examined
- If a question is referred to a medical authority under regulation 30, 31 or 32 and the person concerned wilfully or negligently fails to submit himself to such medical examination or to attend such interviews as the medical authority may consider necessary in order to enable him to make his decision, then—
(a) if the question arises otherwise than on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the police authority may make their determination on such evidence and medical advice as they in their discretion think necessary;
(b) if the question arises on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the appeal shall be deemed to be withdrawn.
The letter indicates that Staffordshire Police has taken the view that it was not enough for the individuals concerned to have submitted themselves to such medical examination as had been arranged for them with the force’s doctor, and to have allowed themselves to be interviewed by the doctor. Staffordshire Police appears to believe regulation 30 covers access to personal medical and financial information. Staffordshire Police thus claims there has been either a wilful or negligent refusal.
Consequently, a decision has been made by the force to reduce the pensions of the individuals concerned.
Moreover, the reductions are to be back-dated to the time when they saw the force’s doctor.
The letter is essentially identical to each individual. Each letter fails to give any reason or insight into how the decision to reduce the pensions was taken, or on what evidence.
IODPA understands that solicitors have been instructed in challenging this extraordinary action by Staffordshire Police.
We will provide updates as the situation evolves.