Northumbria Police Produce Guidance To SMPs

A man who works evil against another works it really against himself, and bad advice is worst for the one who devised it.

— Hesiod  (Greek poet, generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC.)

 

We all receive advice as we progress through life.  Parents, teachers, doctors, financial advisers, police officers, lifestyle coaches, diet experts and many others – they all hand out advice. By all accounts, much of it is then promptly ignored.

Perhaps that reaction can be explained by an instinctive understanding that it can be difficult to spot bad advice, especially when it comes from an authoritative source. Essentially, advice is seen as not to be followed blindly, but to serve only as someone’s point of view, before making up your own mind what to do or not do.

With that in mind, this blog is about some seemingly professional advice issued as ‘guidance’ by Northumbria Police to the doctor or doctors who are tasked to make certain decisions in regard to so-called ‘reviews’ of the degree of disablement of former officers of Northumbria Police. 

The guidance is reproduced in full, below –

IOD Reviews and Reconsiderations Case Law Reference for SMPs

 

We should explain, for new readers, that officers who are injured on duty and as a result become disabled to a degree which prevents them continuing to perform the full range of ordinary duties of a police officer are retired, with an injury pension. The old phrase used for this involuntary retirement was that the individual was ‘cast from the force’. 

The amount of injury pension paid is tied, in part, to the ‘degree of disablement’ which is the extent to which an individual’s capacity to do paid work has been eroded by the disablement.

It is accepted there is a possibility the degree of disablement present at the point of retirement may alter at some later stage. The injury pension Regulations allow, therefore, for a police pension authority to consider, ‘at such intervals as may be suitable’ whether an individual’s degree of disablement has altered. If it has altered substantially, then the amount of pension paid can be revised. This process, of medical assessment and decision is commonly known as a ‘review’.

The Regulations require that the scheme manager, who holds the office of Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’), shall select a ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’ to decide whether there has been any alteration, and if there has been, decide the extent of the alteration. This doctor is known commonly as the Selected Medical Practitioner, or the SMP. The guidance issued by Northumbria Police is to those doctors. 

We understand the guidance has been widely circulated and has not been confined to only Northumbria’s SMPs. Thus, its influence, and potential impact, has spread far and wide, across many of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Can guidance from such an authoritative, seemingly professional source, be trusted? We suggest not. Northumbria has a long history of misunderstanding the Regulations. We need hardly remind ourselves of the disgraceful actions of Northumbria’s resident SMP, Dr Broome in reducing, at the stoke of his pen, the pensions of some 70 disabled pensioners.

We believe that Dr Broome, who describes himself as a ‘consultant occupational physician’ was undoubtedly guided in his actions by Northumbria’s resident solicitor, Mr Wirz.

An appeal, by way of judicial review, was made by several of the affected pensioners. They won their case. Here is what the court report has to say:

Dr Broome, the SMP, dealt with all 70 cases on the same day – 20th February 2009. In each case he reduced the degree of disablement to Band 1. In Mr Crudace’s case his reasons were expressed in a letter of that date which reads:

I am advised that the Pensioner has reached State Retirement Age and therefore, in accordance with the Regulations, the Pensioner “no longer has an earning capacity for the purposes of the Police Injury Benefit Regulations”.  Northumbria Police has also determined that there is no “cogent reason” why the Pensioner should not, therefore, be considered to have 0% loss of earnings capacity and as a consequence of their injury, and should be placed in the 0-25% Degree of Disablement banding. I confirm that the above recommendations are consistent with the Regulations and I attach a revised Statement of Injury

 

Dr Broome should have weighed more carefully whatever guidance was directed his way. For his part, and in our humble opinion, solicitor Wirz would have in turn relied on guidance issued by none other than the Home Office.

That guidance, contained in Home Office circular 46/2004, which one would think should  have been beyond critical appraisal given its source, was declared to be unlawful later and the Home Office withdrew significant parts of it.

It is worth nothing that both Dr Broome and Mr Wirz have had several other unsuccessful ventures in the appeal courts.  Indeed, it is hard to find any record of a successful outcome in the law courts for these two.

Yet they both continue to be employed by Northumbria Police, despite all the above.
The rub is, Dr Broome, being paid by Northumbria Police, can hardly be classed as impartial. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

It is all very well that Northumbria’s Chief Constable and the local Police and Crime Commissioner are content to have Dr Broome and Mr Wirz on the books. Perhaps their shortcomings are compensated for by excellence in other aspects of their duties. However, when bad advice is more than likely circulated by Northumbria to other forces – forces who may be blissfully unaware of the track records of Mr Wirz and Dr Broome. These forces may be tempted to take the guidance as sound, valid and watertight, and might recommend it to their own SMPs.

They would be wrong to do so.

The motives of Mr Wirz remain known only to him, but glimpses of his thinking can be caught from reading the guidance. It can be read on two levels – the visible and the unstated. For those who have knowledge of the history of police injury pension maladministration, the unstated theme of the guidance is obvious. It is, in our view, a cynical attempt to manipulate SMPs into applying the regulations in an unlawful manner.

We don’t propose to present a detailed critique of the Northumbria guidance, for that would take up too much space. Instead we suggest to any other force, and any other SMPs who might be tempted to adopt this guidance, that they would do well to treat it with circumspection and a healthy level of suspicion. 

It may though be helpful to sample the guidance at its start, in the middle, and at its end. A sample is all that is needed to demonstrate just how badly flawed is the entire guidance, and how any SMP or police pension authority who chose to rely on it could expect the certainty of successful legal challenge.

It is laughably ironic that the guidance warns, at the outset, that SMPs should not rely on Home Office guidance. The very guidance which Dr Broome and Northumbria Police failed to identify as flawed and unlawful back in 2009.

Although the Home Office withdrew parts of the guidance (46/2004 circular) they left virtually intact and in circulation a hugely more detailed and lengthy guidance which was composed by the same person. 

So, Northumbria is right to warn SMPs conducting reviews that,

. . . case law confirms that the approach to this issue contained in historic Home Office Guidance should not be relied upon.

 

But Northumbria is being partisan by omitting to caution that case law equally confirms that, given its track record, the approach to most issues of injury pension law by Northumbria police pension authority should not be relied upon.

Further into the guidance, speaking about reviews, it advises,

The SMP must establish, relying on admissible evidence, whether the pensioner remains disabled, and if so, whether the disablement caused by the qualifying medical condition is permanent.

 

This is not at all what ‘case law confirms’. The SMP is required to accept the previously-decided degree of disablement, and with that as the starting point, must then determine whether there has been any alteration from that level. 

We note the guidance neglects to cite the ‘case law’ it relies upon. We can put the matter straight by quoting from the case report of  Haworth and Northumbria Police Authority [2012] EWHC 1225 (Admin).

At paragraph 24, we see the court’s opinion:

Upon any such review the starting point on disablement has to be taken as that reached by any previous review as a matter of substance and a new review cannot lawfully seek to re-open questions on disablement, and in particular on causation, already determined by earlier decisions of the material medical authority.

 

Given that this was a judicial review case involving Northumbria, it seems all the more suspect that its Guidance to SMPs is so much at variance with the decision of a court and that it relies on unidentified legal authority here.

Moving to the bottom of the guidance it can be seen that SMPs are being advised directly to divest themselves of a legal duty in certain circumstances.

Those circumstances are currently the subject of an ongoing legal case involving Staffordshire’s police pension authority, so we can’t comment in detail. Suffice to say that the issues revolve around the data protection rights of private citizens and the limits of authority of a Police Pension Authority in making decisions concerning degree of disablement.

We can point out though that the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 place a duty on the SMP to make a decision. Regulation 30 states, very clearly a police pension authority. ‘. . . shall refer for decision to a duly qualified medical practitioner selected by them . . .’ certain decisions.

The Northumbria guidance, in complete contradiction, says this:


As SMP you should avoid attempting to make a determination in the absence of information which you, in your professional judgement, consider necessary in order to complete the determination.

 

It is IODPA’s informed understanding that a SMP must make a decision. The regulations offer no option where the SMP can decline to decide. There is a duty on the SMP to make a decision. If there is no evidence, for whatever reason, of substantial alteration in degree of disablement, then the decision of the SMP can only be, and should only be to declare there is no evidence of alteration.

The importance of Northumbria’s guidance on this point is that, if a SMP declines to make a decision, claiming certain information is not available, then an aggressive police pension authority might be tempted to claim the pensioner had wilfully or negligently refused to be medically examined. Thus allowing the police pension authority to turn to regulation 33 and make the decision itself.

That is the very crux of the litigation which is currently engulfing Staffordshire police pension authority.

Whilst that case is ongoing IODPA cautions all SMPs to be very careful in respect of the totality of the guidance issued by Northumbria. The guidance is adversarial in tone, emanates from a source with a record of losses at judicial review and is most probably penned by an individual who has an axe to grind.

We have said it before and we repeat it again. Forces need to ensure they, and their SMPs conduct reviews rigorously within the regulations, utterly fairly, without bias, and with the welfare of the disabled former officer firmly in mind in all that they do.

Northumbria Police Produce Guidance To SMPs
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21 thoughts on “Northumbria Police Produce Guidance To SMPs

  • 2019-10-10 at 7:59 pm
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    The HMICFRS recent report on Northumbria with ‘concerns about the performance of Northumbria Police 2018/2019’ is worth reading, not only are they failing all their IOD’s but also victims of crime.

    Wonder how they will get the Press Office to spin it……… lets think……… ‘lessons learnt, room for improvement, take on board, set up a new team to review, point finger at someone else, new livery, new headquarters……… that will do it!

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  • 2019-10-10 at 5:25 pm
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    Legal quackery, whether dressed up with reference to case law or other dubious quotes, is still legal quackery. Wirz apparently operates under the maxim of ‘Bullshit baffles brains’. It may baffle one or two PPAs but it doesn’t work on High Court judges.

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  • 2019-10-10 at 9:54 am
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    It’s a well known fact that if there is one bad apple in a barrel, then all the others will also go bad!

    It appears that this knowledge also applies to police forces, as in this case, Northumbria is that bad apple. It’s already badly affected Staffordshire and we know that via their ‘Solicitor, this poison is trying to be spread via their College of Policing group to other forces.

    How many more ‘bad apple’ forces do their need to be, before the contagion, the rot is stopped?

    Will every force become ‘rotten’ before the Home Office, or the Court’s finally call a halt.

    Could you ever see Judges, or MP’s tolerating this behaviour towards them!

    Chief Constable, Police Commissioner, Home Secretary, please stop this now before it’s too late!

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  • 2019-10-09 at 9:21 pm
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    Those who do not know the value of loyalty can never appreciate the cost of betrayal.

    Once I would never have thought this of the Northumbria force I once loyally served – but now I see your betrayal of those that have stood in the face of danger and paid with a lifelong sentence through the injuries they recieved .

    How can a Chief Constable and his staff look their officers in the eye whilst doing as they do – punish the disabled who did their job and were so seriously injured they lost their careers and for many – large parts of their life.

    You deserve no loyalty for this betrayal to the men and women you harm with your impropriety.

    Northumbria Police your actions are simply a disgrace.

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  • 2019-10-09 at 8:15 pm
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    Dr Broome the chosen SMP of Northumbria (the not very caring Force) dealt with 70 cases in one day in 2009, obviously instructed by his friends, Mr Wirz and Ms Lawson (who was then Head of HR not as now having promoted herself to Director of People)………….70!!!

    That’s 70 FULL sensitive data medical files on 70 individuals. I bet he took absolutely no notice of the HR reports from Northumbria saying ‘reduce them to Band 1’ Let’s not forget several IOD’s have been reviewed many times and the additional cost of providing multiple times a full file from the IOD’s GP’s .

    He’s absolutely incredible, reading/reviewing 70 individuals medical notes with multiple disabilities/multiple complex consultants reports in one day.

    He knows how to keep his paymasters happy, not only did he fleece the 70 IOD’s but the tax payers! SEVENTY cases!!!!!

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  • 2019-10-09 at 7:54 pm
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    You know you really can’t make crap like this up but that’s not stopping Northumbria Police. All dressed up to look like sound legal advice when in reality it is really a ploy to get the SMP to act according to Northumbria Police’s demands. Police Injury Regulations, Case law and other Acts of Parliament be damned.

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  • 2019-10-09 at 6:43 pm
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    How can a SMP be independent when they are being paid for by the Police/PPA? OIH had the 3 year contract which was worth £500K which ran out earlier this year. No contract has been renewed (OIH does not exist anymore and the contract has expired) or put out to tender, but it appears JB-OH Limited are now acting as SMP.

    Are Northumbria Police breaching public authority tendering for services or are they just paying the SMP’s ad hoc to bypass the tender process.

    All smells a little fishy. Not exactly transparent for a public service.

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  • 2019-10-09 at 6:34 pm
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    It beggars belief that Mr Wirz is still employed by Northumbria Police considering that he has been reported many times to the SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority) who have confirmed they hold a file on him, let alone the numerous JR cases he has lost , at the expense of the tax payer! Indeed Mr Wirz has been known to deliver presentations in various parts of the UK. Is this at the expense of his employer Northumbria Police? Dr Broome has been reported on a number of occasions to the GMC . Dr Broome is not in the business of curing cancer or relieving suffering; the motive of most Doctors entering the medical profession. Instead, he is lining his pockets at the expense of illegally reducing IOD pensions at the behest of his puppet master. Indeed very recently, the head of Northumbria Police Legal Dept had to personally respond to a Subject Access Request that had been submitted to Dr Broome! Hardly a sign that Dr Broome is independent!
    The new Northubria PCC Ms McGuiness has no idea what she has inherited and is not experienced enough to even understand it!

    The Chief Constable is signing his name to this ! Their motto is ‘proud to protect’. Who are they protecting exactly? Clearly themselves…at least for the time being……

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  • 2019-10-09 at 5:49 pm
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    The more I read about this the angrier I get. I believe the new Chief Constable is a decent man, so I can only conclude he is being badly advised. What is it that Wirz, Lawson, and HR crew have on the go that they persecute these sometimes old, infirm and vulnerable people? Dragging 90+ year olds to Leeds to attend a PMAB, that he won!! Did they once get pulled over and breathalysed? Parking Ticket perhaps? Whatever it is, it is strong enough to pursue Northumbria IOD’s to the grave. (Yes, that threat was made in writing) Wage rises all round for the HR faithful, away days for Wirz, Heron left holding the baby. Is the rumour true then that for every IOD reduced there is a bonus on offer? I am starting to think this is so??? There is certainly a driver in force somewhere, financial or otherwise…….Shame on you.

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  • 2019-10-09 at 3:26 pm
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    Failing to learn from previous mistakes.
    Maladministration.
    Collusion to circumvent legal requirements.

    All the above should not be things that can be written about Police Chiefs, their solicitors, HR staff or medical Doctors. Sadly these blogs, repeatedly show that the above expressions regularly apply regarding Police Injury pensions.
    Hopefully one day those involved will be held to account.

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  • 2019-10-09 at 10:36 am
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    There needs to be a time when someone considers such advice , not a legal interpretation , by means of its ommissions and manipulations A CRIME!
    4Fraud by abuse of position
    (1)A person is in breach of this section if he—
    (a)occupies a position in which he is expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of another person,
    (b)dishonestly abuses that position, and
    (c)intends, by means of the abuse of that position—
    (i)to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
    (2)A person may be regarded as having abused his position even though his conduct consisted of an omission rather than an act.

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    • 2019-10-09 at 5:42 pm
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      I am just surprised that nobody has reported the treatment of some of the NP IOD’s to a multi agency safeguarding committee.

      Reducing the 90 year old IOD from Berwick and making him travel to Leeds to attend a PMAB where they then reinstated his pension only for him to die (RIP) a few months later was not Northumbria’s finest moment and in my opinion sums up completely the SMP, Northumbria Police Legal, PPA (Chief Constable) and the Director of People and her staff (HR).

      Imagine the 18 months prior to the PMAB what they put that 90 year old pensioners through and then reducing his income ……… shameful and I hope karma bites the persons responsible on their desk wallowing derrières!

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  • 2019-10-09 at 10:12 am
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    Very well executed blog.
    When, if ever, are police forces going to learn that they are not above the law and cannot continue to make adversarial judgements against present or retired officers in their care?

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  • 2019-10-09 at 9:31 am
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    New Chief Constable, New PCC and yet the same old behaviour persists. So much publicity around the police protecting the vulnerable and yet they target vulnerable individuals who were once “one of their own.” whose crime is having been injured in the line of duty. Shame on you.

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  • 2019-10-08 at 10:55 pm
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    There is a need for all individuals who find themselves in a position to make decisions which may significantly affect the status, morale or finances of other individuals, to act in an informed manner, with empathy, humility and dignity. If they were to do so, they would surely make the correct decision.

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    • 2019-10-09 at 6:50 am
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      Empathy, humility and dignity are certainly qualities that Northumbria Police (Legal, SMP or HR) in my opinion, possess.

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      • 2019-10-10 at 11:21 am
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        Is that you Mr. Witz? If not, it has to be a perpetrator from Northumbriia Police!

        The overwelming evidence from scores of Northumbria IOD’s will gladly testify that your statement above is a figment of a dieased mind!

  • 2019-10-08 at 10:49 pm
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    How convenient is it, that the worst purveyor’s of victimisation against injured former police officers, is Northumbria Police.

    Staffordshire come a close second, but it’s Northumbria, the same police force that is always apparently found to be wrong at Court that is the worst by far.

    They seem to hate all those who received injuries whilst on duty and have received, (after a detailed medical examination), an injury pension. They don’t then leave it there, they continue to pursue them cobstantly, not allowing them to grieve the loss of career and self esteem. No, they seem intent on persecution, all apparently, to recover as much of that pension as possible, ignoring the impact on that person, or their family.

    Northumbria apparently promise to ‘review’s their injured officers until death, even though the Regulations imply that this should be a rare occurrence.

    They seem to disregard judgements made against them, playing a dangerous game with Selected Medical Practitioners (SMP’s), in which their perverted view is offered, rather than that of the law.

    Certain SMP’s seem to welcome this approach, as it’s a gravy train for them. They are paid to assess the former officer; then to defend their decisions at appeal boards & then, quite often to re-access that same officer again, post appeal! This costs the public purse £000’s and is no doubt why, one apparently pompous SMP, can afford to be chauffered to appointments.

    The question that remains unanswered, is why does, not only the Chief Constable, but the Home Office continue to allow this to occur? Answers on a postcard please to the Chief Constable, Northumbria Police.

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  • 2019-10-08 at 10:11 pm
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    Northumbria again. Should we be surprised that they spew out such putrid rubbish?

    I thought the new Chief would have more of a moral compass within him and would want to look after his troops more. Is he blindly being led by others? I expected more of such an intelligent and, yes, a decent man.

    Why is he allowing this nonsense out in his name?

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  • 2019-10-08 at 10:07 pm
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    “A wolf is no less a wolf because he’s dressed in sheepskin and the devil is no less the devil because he’s dressed as an angel”

    LeCrae

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  • 2019-10-08 at 10:07 pm
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    I understood that the SMP was supposed to be independent. It looks from this guidance document they are far from it. In keeping with the assessment that Northumbria are the worst in the country they now issue ‘guidance to SMP’s which is incorrect and flawed. A big clear out of the legal and HR departments is needed here. Well done to iodpa for uncovering a document designed to influence SMP decisions in favour of Northumbria. Coupled with their savings document it is clear to anyone who wants to look at it, that Iod’s in Northumbria force are playing against a stacked deck.

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