This is my story and I am writing it in the hope that it may give other Police IOD pensioners the confidence to appeal and challenge grossly unfair injury pension awards with the help and support of the IODPA.
In the early 2000’s I was a Police Motorcyclist in a Midlands Police force and enjoyed going after criminals.
All was well until some well meaning soul decided that we had to go on an off-road appreciation course with another Midlands force, run by an instructor with an ego the size of Texas. Although we weren’t required to take our patrol bikes, Honda had loaned the force a couple of Honda Varadero’s and we were ordered to take those on the course.
Whilst these were better than our road bikes for off roading, they were still totally inappropriate for the course as they were way too cumbersome and heavy but the instructor would hear none of it. He of course was riding a purpose built CCM off road bike and took us to a nearby wood in order to show off his skills at jumping fallen trees.
Imagine our surprise then when, following a demonstration, he suggested that we could do the same on our Varaderos!
Doing everything he said to the letter, I attempted the manoeuvre, hit the fallen tree very hard and fell from the machine in spectacular fashion. The initial laughter soon turned to something more serious when we realised that I couldn’t walk properly and was suffering excruciating pain from my lower back.
Having returned back to force I sought medical advice and treatment which resulted in the diagnosis that I had displaced a disc in my lower back (pushing on a sciatic nerve) and would need surgery to correct it. Although the surgery was successful broadly speaking I still experienced a lot of pain meaning that I could not participate on officer protection and therefore had my patrol ticket pulled which was very hard to take.
The other thing that concerned the organisation was that I was taking very strong prescribed drugs for the pain and that limited the sort of jobs I could do. I did however manage to find other meaningful roles within the organisation up to my retirement.
It is only fair to point out that prior to this incident I did have a problematic back but only in so far as it would ache after a lot of lifting or bending over and this could be addressed with mild over the counter pain killers. The condition had never stopped me carrying out the full duties of a Constable.
I completed my 30 years and after I had left that I was tipped off (as it is a well kept secret) that I could claim for an IOD award.
An application was made and around 11 months later, I was ordered to go and see an SMP one evening in another part of the country in order that my IOD banding could be determined. My wife came with me as it was a long drive and we both remember wandering into this dismal and poorly lit surgery where we were greeted by the good doctor straight from a film set of Lord of the Rings (well that is what he reminded us of).
We recall that he had a horrible way about him and it was clear that he had been given an awful lot of direction by my ex force to drive down the cost of injury pensions by any means fair or foul. We spent about 5 minutes talking about what had caused my injury and the rest of the time discussing my medical records where he was clearly looking for some weakness or chink in my armour.
Imagine then the delight of the doctor when he found that I had previously had back issues albeit minor ones. He then concerned himself with working out my banding with figures obtained straight from the Beano and even with this I still initially was placed into the band 3 area.
It was then that the Doctor dropped his bombshell and took 50% of my award away in light of my previous back issues, which dropped me down into a band 2 (just). I was of course in no position to argue as I had not applied for an IOD pension before and did not know the rules so we left thinking that although the encounter was far from pleasant, I had done OK. Incidentally, I have since found out that this so called doctor died abroad in 2016 in suspicious circumstances.
Wind on if you will to 2018 when I read a circulation from NARPO about injury pensions. This was when I became aware of the IODPA and began to read some articles on their site. I also began to exchange emails with IODPA. The charity came across as extremely switched on, knowledgeable but friendly too. IODPA told me there and then that in their opinion I had been short changed and had clearly been the victim of unlwful practice due to the incorrect use of apportionment by the SMP.
I am by nature a moderate and ended up speaking to our local NARPO boss who said he would be very careful about rocking boats, the worry being that the IOD pension could go down as well as up during an appeal. This bit of advice unsettled me so in short I did nothing.
This is perhaps a good time to say that anyone looking at me or interacting with me would not immediately guess that I have a serious and debilitating back injury.
I am and always have been a believer in ‘best foot forward’ and just try to get on with it.
The truth of the matter however is that I am still in a lot of pain, even with the strong drugs and cannot sit, stand, walk, drive or even lie down for any length of time. This then makes me very tired and irritable and I often need to sleep in the day to catch up with lost sleep, which strangely enough prospective employers have something of an opinion about!!!
In 2020 another ex-cop from my force, who I really like and rate, had just retired and asked me if I would help him with an IOD submission. I was quite willing to do this but wanted to make sure I was up on current law etc so began reading the IODPA site once more. Imagine then my surprise when I found 2 stated cases, South Wales Police vs Crocker and Met Police vs Walther that were both in existence when I retired and were more or less carbon copies of my circumstances in that a previous medical condition had been incorrectly taken into account.
In Met vs Walther, Walther even had exactly the same pre-existing back condition as me but like me had never stopped carrying out the full duties of a Constable until his injury on duty, although his was sustained during officer protection rather than by falling from a motorcycle.
The other thing from reading the IODPA site, it made me aware of the existence of the solicitor, Ron Thompson and the QC David Lock, who were winning cases on behalf of wronged IOD pensioners left right and centre.
Nothing ventured nothing gained I thought and tracked Ron Thompson down to his practice ‘Haven Solicitors’ in the North of England where I rang him. What a lovely approachable guy. The advice to me was to politely write to my ex force and request a Section 32 (3) reconsideration of my IOD award as it considered that I had an open and shut case.
This is a little known method of revisiting decisions made by an SMP when deciding upon an IOD award, the (3) aspect being because my original SMP was deceased, therefore I had to be referred to a different SMP.
Armed with all of this info, I re contacted IODPA who remembered me and my case (quite impressive when you think of the hundreds of cases they deal with) who urged me to pursue it in the way Ron had suggested. It was this backing and complete support by the IODPA, which finally gave me the push I needed to make my move.
In April this year I wrote to the new Chief Constable of my old force requesting a Sec 32 (3) reconsideration of my IOD pension.
The more I read the IODPA site the wiser I got with regard to some of the dirty and underhand tricks forces will go to in order to stop paying former officers their dues in IOD pensions. It is my view that three forces Staffordshire, Merseyside and Northumbria should hang their heads in shame at the way in which they treat former cops, particularly where IOD pensions are concerned.
Happily, my ex force, whilst not perfect, is no longer like the aforementioned outfits and the current Chief is extremely welfare minded, if what I hear is true. Straight away senior people from the force made contact with me in order to progress my request, which was dealt with considerably more expediently and efficiently than my original IOD pension!
Eventually, my case was passed to the force Medical Adviser with whom I had a telephone interview due to Covid. This Doctor listened to the reasoning behind my request for reconsideration and agreed that it appeared that I had been assessed incorrectly by the original SMP. He then referred me to a new SMP in the Midlands.
All of the way through this I was keeping IODPA appraised of the situation and they were advising me of potential pitfalls and tricks used by some less reputable forces during these appeals. I will freely admit that some of these moves are not obvious to an everyday person so their help, support and assistance were invaluable and potentially stopped me from making some grave errors in my application.
I am not a person who can be made to worry easily. It did, however, occur to me that the reconsideration could go against me (investments may go down as well as up) and that this could cost me a lot of money and a resultant change of lifestyle too. This of course cost me a lot of sleepless nights (to go with the ones I have already) and was beginning to takes its toll on my general health and temper. Even my wife who is wonderful and massively supportive was beginning to question the wisdom of pursuing the reconsideration!!
Once the new SMP began to see people for face to face appointments once again (when the Covid rules were relaxed) I was asked to go for a meeting with him at his offices in a large Midland City. My wife came with me to drive and offer general support. Straight away the difference between this SMP and the former one was obvious. His manner was kind, considerate and extremely professional.
The SMP questioned me with how my disability had affected me since the accident and whether any additional medical complaints had raised their heads since I had retired. I believe in being truthful so I told the SMP about a couple of medical issues that I had although he was happy that my original injury was still the only cause of my disability.
The Doctor then moved on to the banding calculations. I provided evidence of my yearly earnings since retirement, which he took note of and he also used a far more realistic figure than the previous SMP when calculating my potential loss of earnings.
The Doctor awarded me with a band 4 injury pension stating that apportionment was not in any way appropriate as my early back problems had not stopped me carrying out the full duties of a Constable up to the point of my injury. What an open, honest and fair man that guy is!!!!!
The SMP report quickly found its way back to my force, who did not question its findings.
There was a slight confusion over the back pension I was due but both IODPA and Ron the solicitor told me in no uncertain terms that I was due it. Put simply, with a Regulation 32(3) reconsideration, the new SMP report replaces the old SMP report as though it never existed, therefore the revised banding applies from the day after retirement.
We were a bit close to pay day for all of the back calculations to be made but I received my pension at the revised rate more or less straight away. Credit where credit is due and a senior person in my old force got to hear what had happened and made contact with our pension administrators, authorising a one off payment to be made to me as soon as the back calculations had been done. That was a lovely surprise for me as I had just gone onto my internet banking to see what sort of pennies I had now that the monthly bills had been paid and had no idea that the pension arrears had been paid!!
So that is about it. I guess the main feeling is one of relief.
My wife now thinks that I am extremely heroic for standing by my principles pursuing what is right!! lol
There is no way on this earth that I would have had the nerve to go for this had it not been for the help, support, general encouragement and superb subject knowledge of IODPA.
It is only right that Ron Thompson of Haven Solicitors is mentioned too as his accurate and legal wording of the acts and sections involved played a significant part in my case. The thing is I would have never even have known about Ron had it not been for the IODPA and their amazing site so my sincere thanks and admiration go out to them.
The other really important thing is that because of the private nature of the IOD pension, both financially and medically, there are not too many people that you can talk to about it, which is in itself, very frustrating. The IODPA therefore provide a really good outlet for this as they not only give fantastic advice and guidance but they listen and don’t repeat what is after all a deeply confidential matter.
Other than my wife the only other person I have felt comfortable speaking to about this in any depth is my best friend, who is a builder, and knows nothing about the inner workings of the Police IOD pension system. When I told him that it was all sorted he just smiled and said ‘A serious wrong has been righted’ which I guess sums it up perfectly.
The IODPA empowered me to make that happen.