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David Lock QC: Police Ill-health and Injury Pensions: A guide through part of the maze

David Lock QC: Police Ill-health and Injury Pensions: A guide through part of the maze

David Lock QC has released a paper – “Police Ill-health and Injury Pensions: A guide through part of the maze”.

The original article can be viewed here – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/police-ill-health-injury-pensions-guide-through-part-maze-lock-qc

Please visit the article and leave an appropriate comment.

All copyright owned by David Lock QC

Police Ill-health and Injury Pensions

Tully – Revisited

Tully – Revisited

Neither are we impressed by the so-called floodgates argument advanced by the respondent. We consider this to be an irrelevant factor to our considerations.

― His Honour Judge D Morris

 

IODPA membership continues to grow. Membership is open to all former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. We also are very happy to include serving officers who are at any stage of retirement because of ill health through injury.

Injury on duty pensioners and serving officers are turning to IODPA for one reason only – they need support and advice to deal with ongoing attacks on their pension rights.

It is a sad fact that some forces have shifted their money-saving focus in respect of pensions. They now try to deny ill or injured serving officers their pension rights. We hear of officers who are signed off sick, then reduced to half pay, or even no pay. The intention is, we fear, to pressure them into resigning. Which means they do not qualify for an enhanced ordinary pension. We hear of lengthy and essentially pointless processes designed to force ill officers back to work – with ‘reasonable adjustments’ made to working conditions which turn out to be completely unreasonable and in many cases actually further damage the individual’s health.

We can perhaps highlight some of these abuses in future blogs, but for now we want to look back to 2006 and at the appeal case brought by Phillip Tully, a former North Wales Police officer.

This case is important for it illustrates two aspects which remain relevant today.

Firstly, it exposes the lengths some forces go to in the ironic and self-defeating costly pursuit of saving pensions money. Secondly, it reveals the misplaced and utterly inappropriate attitude towards their duties and responsibilities of, in this case, the North Wales police pension scheme managers. Those attitudes remain entrenched in some other forces to this day.

Mr Tully served from 1991 to 2001. He ceased to serve due to physical disability. However, for reasons which the appeal case does not make clear North Wales Police did not offer to assess him for a deferred pension, or Mr Tully did not apply for one.

On 19th March 2005 Mr Tully applied for early payment of pension on grounds of permanent disability. A deferred pension is payable under regulation B5 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987.

North Wales Police received the letter on the 14th March.

As is so often the situation, North Wales then proceeded very slowly. Mr Tully was required to see two doctors appointed by the force, and some eleven months after his application the pension authority indicated he qualified for a deferred pension.

However, the pension authority decided that it would become payable not from the date of Mr Tully’s retirement in 2001, nor from the date of his application for a deferred pension in 2005, but from the 16th February 2006, when a Dr Entwistle decided Mr Tully was permanently disabled from performing the ordinary duties of a police officer.

We need not go into the detail of the legal arguments advanced by North Wales, as it is sufficient to say the court found no merit in them. Mr Tully won his appeal.

The court decided,

First, we are satisfied that Parliament intended that, generally speaking, pension entitlements under these regulations should be payable from the date of an officer’s retirement unless or until that was limited or excluded by operation of an express provision to that effect elsewhere in the same regulations.

Here is a copy of the court ruling –

R v Tully. 2006

 

Mr Tully won his appeal. The Court decided his deferred pension should be paid from the 1st October 2001, the date of his retirement.

The first lesson from this case then is that former officers, and those about to retire due to disabling ill health or injury need to seek professional advice so as to be fully made aware of their pension rights and entitlements. It is never wise to rely on a police force having sufficiently well qualified and knowledgeable staff who will always ‘do the right thing’ and act within the Regulations. Even with the best of intentions, HR and Occupational Health staff make far too many mistakes.

The second lesson concerns the darkness which lays behind some decisions made by pension scheme managers. It seems that North Wales Police thought it appropriate to try to convince the court that Mr Tully’s appeal should be rejected because a successful appeal would bring forth a flood of other former officers who had been paid their pensions from an incorrect start date.

We have at the head of this blog quoted the Court’s response to this distasteful argument.

IODPA’s response is to remind police pension authorities they have a duty to administer the pension regulations in a way which is compatible with the intentions of Parliament. The various pension entitlements were put in place in recognition that police work can be dangerous, and wearing. The  Metropolitan Police introduced the very first pension scheme in 1829.  Benefits were provided on disablement for London officers “worn out by length of service”.

Not much has changed in that respect. Officers earn their pensions and it is not for misguided scheme managers to frustrate the intentions of Parliament by devising endless variations of ways to deny them their pension rights.

David Lock QC: Chief Constables are under positive legal duty to refer permanently disabled police officers to an SMP

David Lock QC: Chief Constables are under positive legal duty to refer permanently disabled police officers to an SMP

Court holds that Chief Constables are under positive legal duty to refer permanently disabled police officers to an SMP for IOD assessment on retirement if the officer “may” have an entitlement to a police injury pension.

In a ruling on 20th July 2018, that may have significance for many other disabled former police officers, HHJ Moore has decided that Chief Constables who require a police officer to retire on the grounds of permanent disablement can be under a legal duty to refer the officer to an SMP to decide whether the officer is entitled to a police injury pension.  The Judge decided the legal duty will arise in a case where the SMP report contains information which indicates that that the officer may have a right to a police injury pension.  This positive duty means that the Chief Constable is required to take the initiative by making an SMP referral in appropriate cases, and cannot just wait until the officer makes a request.

This important principle was decided in the case of former Sergeant Lloyd Kelly who was serving with the South Yorkshire Force.  After a long career of public service, Sgt Kelly was required to retire after developing a permanent medical condition in 2005.  The SMP report showed his condition was clearly duty related, but no referral was made by the Chief Constable to an SMP to make a decision whether he was entitled to an enhanced police injury  pension.  Police pension rights are complex and, as with many officers, Sgt Kelly was unaware that he may have been entitled to an IOD award as well as his standard ill-health pension and so did not request an SMP referral.

In 2016, Sgt Kelly learned that he may be entitled to an injury award and so applied to West Yorkshire Police to have his case considered by an SMP for the first time.  He was assessed by a new SMP and awarded a substantial police injury pension.  But contrary to Regulation 43(1) of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 (“the 2006 Regulations”), the Chief Constable refused to pay a backdated award from the date of his retirement.  Sgt Kelly, supported by the Police Federation and Slater and Gordon Lawyers, appealed that refusal to the Sheffield Crown Court under Regulation 34 of the 2006 Regulations.

On 20th July 2017, HHJ Moore held that Sgt Kelly’s case ought to have been referred by the South Yorkshire Police Authority to the SMP in 2005 and that the Chief Constable was attempting to gain a windfall from his predecessor’s breach of its legal duty by failing to pay the back-dated pension.  The Judge held that the scheme of the Regulations provided that, once a police pension was awarded, it was payable for the life of the officer from the date of retirement.  Hence, he directed the Chief Constable to pay the backdated pay in full and with interest from the date of the award.

However the case has wider significance because the Judge also decided a Chief Constable has a positive duty to refer disabled police officers into the IOD system if they may have a right to a pension, and cannot simply wait until the officer makes a request.  He reached this decision based on:

  1. the duty on the Chief Constable to make a decision as to what pensions were owing to the former officer under Regulation 30(1) of the 2006 Regulations,
  2. the common law duty the Chief Constable owes to police officers,
  3. the requirement to make reasonable adjustments in favour of disabled officers (now under the Equality Act 2010), and
  4. to give effect to the officer’s rights under Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR.

The Judge also followed the cases of Tully and Schilling in deciding that the police pension system provided for back-dated pensions payable from the date of retirement for officers who were permanently disabled on retirement, even if the pension award decision was taken at a later date.

The Court ordered the Chief Constable to pay all of the former officer’s legal costs.

David Lock QC: The implications for the police injury pension scheme of the decision in R (Evans) v Chief Constable of Cheshire

David Lock QC: The implications for the police injury pension scheme of the decision in R (Evans) v Chief Constable of Cheshire

David Lock QC has released a paper following his highly successful win at the high court in a Judicial Review against Cheshire Constabulary in the Manchester Administrative Court on the 14th March 2018.

The original article can be viewed here – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/implications-police-injury-pension-scheme-decision-r-evans-lock-qc/

Please visit the article and leave an appropriate comment.

All copyright owned by David Lock QC

The implications for the police injury pension scheme of the decision in R v Evans

Breaking News: Judicial Review confirms that final decisions are final

Breaking News: Judicial Review confirms that final decisions are final

Our congratulations to David Lock QC and Ron Thompson of Haven Solicitors who have won another very important Judicial Review against Cheshire Constabulary in the Manchester Administrative Court on the 14th March 2018. It centres around whether an SMP who is considering an injury award can revisit the same questions already answered during the ill-health retirement process. IODPA receives a lot of correspondence over this issue, and the judgement reinforces the rights of injured officers and should provide some certainty to those who have been ill-health retired and are seeking an injury award.

The case involved Mark Evans an officer from Cheshire Constabulary, who in 2007 following a number of on duty incidents was deemed to be disabled by reason of (i) mechanical back pain, and (ii) post-traumatic stress disorder, and that that disablement was likely to be permanent. Evans was not ill-health retired, but retained on non-operational clerical roles.

In 2015, the force reconsidered whether that state of affairs should continue and an assessment by Dr Pilkington, a new SMP concluded that he was permanently disabled on the basis of “significant degenerative changes in his right shoulder“, but that his PTSD “would not be expected to constitute a permanent incapacity“. He was required to retire on the grounds of permanent disablement.

Evans then applied for an injury on duty award, and his case was referred to a third SMP, Dr Walsh. Dr Walsh concluded the claimant had a permanent disability as a result of “significant degenerative changes in his right shoulder joint“, but again rejected the claim of PTSD. Evans was awarded band 1.

Evans appealed the decision to the PMAB, who disagreed that he had any permanent disablement at all, and therefore he did not qualify for an injury award.

The case hinged on whether following the initial determination of Dr Hutton, the PMAB were entitled to reconsider under the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006, the following questions that had already been decided under the Police Pension Regulations 1987,

(a) whether the person concerned is disabled
(b) whether the disablement is likely to be permanent

Mr Justice LANE quashed the decision of the PMAB stating “police officers who are required to retire on the grounds of permanent disablement are entitled to a degree of finality in respect of their entitlement to pensions. A police officer who has to retire as a result of what is then considered to be permanent disablement caused in the line of duty should not be at the mercy of a subsequent medical assessment, that he or she was not, in fact, permanently disabled“.

You can read the full judgement here – http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/952.html

Ron Thompson from Haven Solicitors has provided the following press release.

 

Haven Press Release - Evans

 

 

“Round One” to Staffordshire Police

“Round One” to Staffordshire Police

Mr Justice KERR recently handed down a judgement in the case of BOSKOVIC v. Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police. The matter was heard in Manchester Administrative Court on the 31st October 2017.

The claimant, now 42, left the employment of Staffordshire Police in 2002 with an ill health pension by reason of permanent disablement consisting of psychiatric injuries. An application was made for an injury on duty award, which was refused by Staffordshire Police following a number of psychiatric reports. The claimant was so unwell that she withdrew her application before it reached PMAB. She left the UK, returning in 2006.

In 2015, after reading an article by IODPA, she submitted an application to Staffordshire Police to have her application reconsidered under Regulation 32(2). In Haworth v. Northumbria Police Authority, regulation 32(2) was described as follows,

 

96. I am persuaded that Mr Lock must be correct in his submission that regulation 32(2) should be construed as a free standing mechanism as part of the system of checks and balances in the regulations to ensure that the pension award, either by way of an initial award or on a review to the former police officer by either the SMP or PMAB, has been determined in accordance with the regulations and that the retired officer is being paid the sum to which he is entitled under the regulations. It must be the overall policy of the scheme that the award of pension reflects such entitlement and I see no reason why regulation 32(2) should be construed simply as a mechanism to correct mistakes which might nonetheless be able to be corrected by some other means.

97. In other words I am persuaded that in the light of the statutory scheme as a whole, there is no reason not to construe regulation 32(2) as in part a mechanism (and indeed an important mechanism) to correct mistakes either as to fact or as to law which have or may have resulted in an officer being paid less than his full entitlement under the regulations, which cannot otherwise be put right, which is this case.

 

Staffordshire Police refused her request on the basis that her claim was “frivolous and vexatious”, and the matter eventually ended up in front of Mr Kerr.

Mr Kerr has refused the application on three grounds.

He had difficulty with the wording of regulation 32(2) which states the following, “The police authority and the claimant may, by agreement, refer any final decision of a medical authority who has given such a decision to him”. He believes that there must be an agreement by the PPA and that there is NO obligation to refer a matter back for reconsideration.

Secondly, he accepted that the length of time that had passed made it unlikely that the claimant would get a fair reconsideration, and that Staffordshire Police were within their rights to consider this when making a decision. This was despite the fact that the original medical reports were still on file, and even if the original psychiatrists were no longer available to reconsider the case, regulation 32(3) allows for another SMP to be appointed.

Lastly, whilst it was acknowledged that any subsequent costs i.e. payment of an injury pension award should the applicant be successful cannot be taken into account, Mr Kerr accepted that costs associated with the application and review process itself could be, particularly with regards to the cost to the public purse. Translated, this means that it is acceptable for Staffordshire Police to spend £50,000 of public money fighting this application in a Judicial Review in order to save the huge cost of £750 instructing an SMP for two hours. Of course there would be additional work for HR employees, whose salaries have to be paid anyway.

Mr Kerr gave leave for an appeal and we await “Round Two”.

The full judgement can be read here http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/14.html

SMPs Have No GMC Immunity

SMPs Have No GMC Immunity

…the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”
[Defend the right to be offended (openDemocracy, 7 February 2005)]”
― Salman Rushdie

Pop quiz:  Have you heard of  General Medical Council v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1390.  It was a judgement handed down by the Court of Appeal on 26 October 2006.

No?  Doesn’t ring a bell?  You are not alone. We’ve read the majority of literature published on selected medical practitioners (SMPs) and the relationship they have with the Police Injury Benefit Regulations but had never come across this case law either.

General Medical Council v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1390 (26 October 2006)

You are here: BAILII Databases England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions General Medical Council v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1390 (26 October 2006) URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2006/1390.html Cite as: [2006] EWCA Civ 1390, [2007] ICR 701, [2007] QB 462, [2007] 2 WLR 286, [2007] LS Law Medical 1, [2007] 1 FLR 1398, [2006] 3 FCR 447, [2007] 1 All ER 1, 92 BMLR 51, (2006) 92 BMLR 51, [2007] Fam Law 214, [2007] 1 QB 462, [2006] 44 EG 196

We have read, however, that Nicholas Wirz, solicitor for Northumbria police, thinks the GMC code of ethics and GMC guidelines are irrelevant to the function of a SMP.  He essentially has been advising that SMPS can behave badly towards IOD pensioners with no consequences from the GMC.

Remember, Wirz is the chap who is busy advising Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire how Regulation 33 can be stretched as thin as a cheapest, gossamer see-through pair of budget nylon tights. The visible result of this self-appointed quasi-guru’s meddling is that disabled former officers are seeing their injury pensions unlawfully reduced from band four to band one. The not so visible result is traumatised, bullied, frightened disabled former officers, many of whom are vulnerable due to mental health problems, and who feel they have no way of challenging the appalling behaviour of some SMPs.

Wirz says in his training material to SMPs

The GMC believes it has jurisdiction over medical practitioners performing a statutory function under the Regulations. Officers/Pensioners commonly make complaints to the GMC against both SMPs and those other medical practitioners the SMP instructs to assist with and inform the SMP process.Para 5.1 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION

And then he continues to assert that this belief is mistaken:

The SMP takes their authority from the statute as interpreted by the courts. Does the GMC have any locus in these circumstances? In other scenarios where medical practitioners perform a judicial function, taking their authority from the relevant enabling legislation/common law, the GMC has no jurisdiction. An example would be the role of CoronerPara 5.2 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION

So where does this proclamation by Wirz that the GMC has no jurisdiction leave us? In the training material referred to above, Wirz makes no reference at all to General Medical Council v Meadow. Why? We can not believe he is unaware of the case, nor fully cognisant of its implications for SMPs. Asking as we are, in this rhetorical way, it seems the judgement has some of the characteristics that Wirz would like to ignore. So he has done just that – he does not mention it. Wirz’s modus operandi is to present only material which appears to support his peculiar, warped, biased and objective-driven view of the Regulations.

This case concerned Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the infamous paediatrician, and his evidence in the case of Sally Clark, who became the victim of a miscarriage of justice when she was found guilty of the murder of her two elder sons.

The Fitness to Practise Panel (FTPP) of the GMC found serious professional misconduct to be proved, and ordered Professor Meadow’s name to be erased from the register. Professor Meadow appealed both against the finding of serious professional misconduct and the sanction of erasure.

The GMC had sought to protect the public by removing Meadow’s registration. This action was in response to his serious professional misconduct, or impaired fitness to practice, which was evidenced by testimony given by him in a criminal court. The doctor’s appeal was based on a claim that the evidence given by him in court was privileged. Immunity is a common law concept. It is given to witnesses to encourage them to give evidence, and to avoid multiplicity of actions.

Meadow won the appeal on the argument that the purpose of the GMC’s FTP (fitness to practice) proceedings is not there to punish the practitioner for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those doctors who have shown they are not fit to practise.

In other words the FTPP should look forward not back, and the FTPP got this wrong, so the GMC appeal failed.

The important part of the ruling is that the court did however rule that the GMC did indeed have the jurisdiction it claimed. There is no blanket immunity permissible for doctors to never be referred to the GMC for misconduct or impairment to practice. It depends on the type of misconduct or impairment.

Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke covered the GMC’s statutory function, powers and duties of the GMC as governed by the Medical Act 1983;

  1. It is I think inconceivable that the draftsman of any of these provisions could have thought that a person against whom there was a case to answer that he was guilty of serious professional misconduct or, now, that his fitness to practise was impaired, would or might be entitled to an immunity of the kind suggested here. Such immunity would, to my mind, be inconsistent or potentially inconsistent with the principle that only those who are fit to practise should be permitted to do so.

So on the matter of granting an immunity which had not, up to 2006 been explicitly recognised, the judge considered that the immunity did not need to be absolute.

There was no reason why the judge before whom an expert gave evidence (or the Court of Appeal where appropriate) should not refer his conduct to the relevant disciplinary body if satisfied that his conduct had fallen so far below what was expected of him as to merit disciplinary action.

Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said in his judgement,

However, I should say at once that in this regard I accept the submission made by Mr Henderson on behalf of the GMC. It is that, although the need for fearlessness and the avoidance of a multiplicity of actions has been held to outweigh the private interest in civil redress, hence the immunity from civil suit, those public policy benefits do not and cannot (or at least should not) override the public interest in the protection of the public’s health and safety enshrined in the GMC’s statutory duty to bring FTP proceedings where a registered medical practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired. A similar point can be made in the case of other professions and occupations, with more or less force depending upon the particular circumstances.

Meadow seemingly won the appeal on a technicality of the failings of the FTPP  – not because the GMC’s FTPP did not have jurisdiction.

All the doctors brainwashed by Nicholas Wirz via his ramblings presented at meetings of the NWEF and at the College of Policing should realise that the equivalent immunity from professional regulatory investigation or proceedings, which Wirz tells those gullible enough to listen to him applies to SMPs, has been held by the Court of Appeal to be contrary to the public interest in the case of expert witnesses.

Nowadays, the GMC has the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).  Whether or not the GMC case examiners or the investigation committee are satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of establishing that the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, and so refers complaints to the MPTS,  is down to the facts of the matter being alleged.  Perhaps the conduct does or doesn’t touch on fitness to practice issues.  Maybe the matter concerns a breach of GMC guidance such as failing to treat the former officer as a patient or to ignore the requirements to disclose medical reports BEFORE disclosure to the force.  Guidance such as this  Confidentiality & Disclosure GMC.

But the take-home here is that Wirz is wrong yet again.  How many vulnerable former officers have not pursued complaints because he has told them the SMP is out of bounds?  Perhaps even Wirz knew about the GMC v Meadows judgement and wanted to bamboozle those about the threshold level required for the GMC to act. Who knows.  We know that there is a world of difference between “no jurisdiction” and  the threshold of fitness to practice to ensure patient safety.

In following this Court of Appeal, there is no exception. The GMC does not aim to resolve individual complaints or punish doctors for past mistakes, but rather to take action where needed in order to protect patients or maintain the public’s confidence in the medical profession.

You do know now, though, that any SMP who claims immunity from GMC ethics or guidelines, or claims that you are not his or her patient needs to read the above Court of Appeal judgement.

If you feel a SMP has harmed your health by his behaviour, or by his failure to put your health first, or by making unreasonable demands causing distress, such as insisting you travel a distance to see him or her, provide medical records from birth, or threaten you with reduction on your injury pension if you do not comply – or any other behaviour or omission which adversely impacts on your health, then complain to the GMC.

You are a ‘patient’ in the eyes of the GMC, and you have the right to be protected from doctors who are unfit to practice.

Coming Soon: Crowd Funding to Help Those Injured on Duty

Coming Soon:  Crowd Funding to Help Those Injured on Duty

Our www.CrowdJustice.com case
Justice for Police Officers Injured On Duty

Disabled, vulnerable former police officers who were injured in the performance of their duty are facing gross injustice in regard to their pensions. Some police forces are determinedly flouting the law. They are bullying and threatening pensioners. They are demanding access to medical records from birth, which is unlawful. They are threatening to take away the pensions of those who do not comply. That too is unlawful. These abuses are only the tip of the iceberg.

Our campaign is to raise funds to allow expert solicitors to fight these injustices. We need to get the courts to order these rogue forces to comply with the law.

Haven Solictors’ legal victory over Merseyside Police, on this very issue, is being deliberately ignored. Staffordshire Police is trying to twist the law by saying that if a pensioner attends a medical examination arranged by the force but does not also give permission for the doctor to access medical records from birth then they will reduce the amount of pension paid – regardless of the individual’s medical condition.  This is absurd.

We need to raise funds to start to fight the injustice.

Police forces can, and do, spend unlimited amounts of public money to attempt to defend their misconduct. Elderly, disabled former police officers on limited incomes can not afford to hire solicitors to help protect their pensions.

A full press release will be circulated when the campaign goes live at 8am Friday 29th September.

CrowdJustice – Crowdfund public interest law

CrowdJustice is a crowdfunding platform that enables individuals, groups and communities to come together to fund legal action. Using the power of people to create change!

 

 

 

Introducing Our Live Employment Tribunal Search Feed

Introducing Our Live Employment Tribunal Search Feed

Following  our Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) live feed we are pleased to announce another step in our quest to be the authoritative source of all injury awards information.

As of February 2017 recent Employment Tribunal judgements can be accessed via GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions.  We have created a RSS feed to this database to extract decisions involving police forces that will be updated automatically as decisions are added.

EATs have always been published on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) but anyone wanting to search or browse employment tribunal decisions had to attend in person at offices in Bury St Edmunds for English and Welsh decisions, and in Glasgow for Scottish decisions.  Employment tribunal judgements are first-instance decisions and are not binding on subsequent cases.

However, decisions often provide a detailed account of the facts in a case, which can incentivise parties to settle rather than risk bad publicity. Judgements can also provide helpful examples of how tribunals deal with legal issues and fact situations

You can find the link on the right side bar under Case Law:

Not all decisions will be matters concerning the Equality Act and disability discrimination but you will be able to see patterns from certain police forces as repeated respondents.  We will blog about pertinent cases that overlap into injury awards and ill-health retirement.

Polemic on the Poll Results

Polemic on the Poll Results

“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot.”
― Mark TwainWhat Is Man?

We asked the question in a previous post whether a person who is disabled in relation to earning capacity and then succumbs to a persistence vegetative state should have his life further questioned by a police pension authority?

The question was asked without real context.  We deliberately didn’t explain what the Regulations allow and we purposely left some cross-over with the possible answers; we wanted people to answer with what they instinctively thought was right.

This human touch is sorely lacking in those who administer injury awards. All too often HR managers and SMPs entirely neglect to consider the effects of their actions on others. A few of them seem to be be completely devoid of any moral compass.

For example, Staffordshire thinks financial constraints are a legitimate reason to review and a questionnaire is the way to vet whether the expense of sending someone in front of a SMP is worth the £2000+ expense payable to the doctor for his arguably pre-determined work to reduce the person’s award.

The procedures laid down in the Regulations have to be applied with individual assessment in each case at each stage. This is being ignored in certain forces, and we need look no further for examples than at Knowles & Wirz of Northumbria and Andrew Colly & DCC Baker & Staffordshire.

Any action has to be justified; and it is not sufficient to ask oneself whether the underlying procedure is legal. In respect of the review of degree of disablement there is a ‘shall’ in the Regulations which ignorant or ill-intentioned managers interpret as giving them carte blanche to review whoever they wish, whenever they wish, as often as they wish. Their lack of moral compass allows them to forget that the so-called ‘duty to review’ is strictly limited and contains a wide power of discretion.

In our earlier blog we gave the example of a poor man placed in a coma. Interestingly, 89% of respondents to our survey think it best to leave the man alone.  Only 8% think that it is appropriate to review and reduce the man’s injury award.  No person voted to remove the injury award.

We think it is the sadly indoctrinated view of the majority involved with, and in receipt of, an injury award that reviews only exist to reduce people.  As a charity one of our aims is to dispel this myth. We don’t think it right that those with an injury award have to live their lives in the shadows, frightened of attracting the gaze of the PPA and always prepared for the manilla envelope to drop in their doormat announcing a review.

Such statistics as do exist – and it needs to be noted that they had to be obtained by lengthy Freedom Of Information requests from forces – show that over the last five years, when reviews have been held, then 83% result in a decision of no alteration in degree of disablement. Some 6.2% produced an increase in pension payment, whilst 10.29% saw the pensioners concerned reduced in banding.

The fear of reviews has much to do with the intrusiveness and uncertainty of the process itself, together with a well deserved and natural suspicion that in some forces the entire process is unlawfully constructed and is indeed intended to manipulate a reduction in payment.

We in IODPA think there are too many reviews, and too many of them are pointless and should never have been held. We are not against lawful reviews, but we are firmly against mass reviews and would want to see scheme managers realise they must exercise discretion in deciding whether a review is appropriate.

Turning again to our survey, why didn’t anyone vote for the award to be taken away in its entirety? Was it considered to be morally wrong or did all the participants have in mind that there are very particular and extremely rare circumstances where an injury pension can be ceased?  Regulation 43 tells us that ‘. . . a pension or allowance shall be payable for life’ yet we know that some forces have threatened pensioners with suspension or even cessation of their injury pension.

In some instances these threats have been carried through – at least only for so long as it takes our legal representatives to explain to the PPA concerned the error of their ways.

We have witnessed SMPs who concocted entirely unlawful rationale that an individual should never have been granted an injury award in the first place. We have seen HR managers issue wholesale threats to pensioners that there injury pension could be reduced or suspended if they fail to complete a questionnaire. We have gasped in disbelief when a PPA has issued similar threats to pensioners who had the temerity to refuse to allow unrestricted access to their sensitive medical records.

It is no small wonder then that IOD pensioners generally worry so much about the security of their injury pension income.

Of late, there has been a new addition to the inventive fancies of HR managers who would like to have the power to reduce or cease injury pensions in circumstances which are not allowed by the Regulations. Where in the Regulations does it say someone with a duty injury can have their pension reduced to the minimum when another injury overtakes the disablement?  The person is still unable to earn. We’ve made this point before; does the person become 200% disabled?

To find why we are even asking this question you need to look to NWEF’s and Northumbria’s legal advisor, Nicholas Wirz.  In his training guidance to SMPs he tells them this:

e.g. if an individual were to have developed advanced Parkinson’s disease since the last review, such that he was unable to work by reason of the symptoms of that disease alone, then the uninjured earning capacity should be nil

The “disease alone” could be replaced by anything according to Wirz: a persistent vegetative state, cancer, even aggravated natural degeneration.  Where does this stop?  For Wirz, he’d rather force an ill 70 year into spending his twilight years appealing the reprehensible Wirz-influenced medical decision to make him or her a band one.

We will talk about case law in a minute.  But ask yourself why the administration of police injury awards is so riddled with high court judgements.  It is because the PPAs, Wirz and NWEF keep trying to disadvantage retired police officers and serving officers who are in need, hardship or distress who are disabled as a consequence of being injured on duty.

By discussing whether an award should be reduced or removed because someone has become severely unwell on another matter is asking the wrong question.  A question that need not be asked and is only asked because Wirz is influencing the SMPs to enact it.  The truth of it is the person being targeted has been injured and had their career taken away – the righteous man or woman acting as a PPA would let them live their life without further hardship.

But there is case law on this matter.  There are three judicial reviews which we need to look at to see how the Regulations have been interpreted by the courts on this matter.  The trouble is they aren’t clear.

The 2003 case of South Wales v Anton (Crocker) is the first.  This case concerned an original decision for an award that SWP didn’t like.

Paragraphs 53, 54 and 55 are the pertinent ones.Mr Justice Ouseley says:

So the question to be answered under the Regulations is what degree of the loss of earning capacity is the result of the duty injury? This seemingly simple question can give rise to acute problems of causation, even though the question of whether or not there has been a disability which the duty injury has caused, or substantially contributed to, has already been answered. A separate issue of causation arises at the apportionment stage, because the entitlement stage can be passed on the basis of an injury which substantially contributes to, but is not the whole cause of, disablement

The judge is saying that another injury may have some effect on the person’s capacity to earn.  We all agree on this.  An injury award should not compensate for injuries not received on-duty. If there is a mix of on duty injury and other injury, then the amount of disablement caused by the on duty needs to be determined.

However, it becomes more complex where an on duty injury exacerbates or aggravates a pre-existing condition. This is commonly referred to as the straw which broke the camel’s back. An officer may be fit for duty despite the pre-existing condition, and it is only when injured on duty that they become disabled.

Mr Justice Ouseley touches on the duty injury aggravating an non-duty injury:

The position is more complex where the total loss is attributable to the effect of a duty injury on an underlying condition, which may or may not be an injury within the definition in the Regulations, and which by itself may or may not have contributed to a separate loss of earning capacity. An officer might suffer from a condition which would not affect him or his earning capacity until aggravated by a duty injury.

So for example a person with a dodgy cervical spine injury, that is mainly asymptomatic and intermittent and does not affect his capacity to earn and is still a fully operational police officer, receives a duty injury that aggravates it.

In this example Mr Justice Ouseley says apportionment for the aggravation and acceleration is not appropriate

  1. I do not consider that the question of apportionment should be answered by trying to attribute a share of the loss of earning capacity to any underlying condition which, on its own, had not, or did not, cause a loss of earning capacity. The loss should be attributed wholly to the duty injury which, albeit because of that underlying condition, has directly caused the loss of earning capacity.

Let us return to the poor individual in the persistent vegetative state.  We are only  talking about this because Wirz has taken the above judgement and twisted it to mean that if a person becomes further disabled through the trials and tribulations which life throws at a person then then the unfortunate soul should not be compensated for the injuries received on duty – even though the injury on duty still exists

The Ouseley judgement does not speak of this.  Wirz has picked up the baton and lobbed it into a field of nettles.  It is an invented concept of Wirz that he feels he wants to test upon disabled and vulnerable former officers.

The Walther judicial reviews (there were two of them) also touch on the matter of apportionment and acceleration.

In Walther v The Police Medical Appeal Board & Anor [2010]  Mr Justice Irwin declared that:

  1. A short acceleration of the onset of a permanent disability is unlikely to be held to be a “substantial” contribution to that disability. Acceleration to any degree is some contribution, but not likely to be regarded as substantial. The opposite applies, it seems to me. A significant acceleration – taking the extreme case, an acceleration of a decade or more – clearly would be a significant contribution to a permanent disability. Where the dividing line comes must be a matter of fact in each case. In my judgment such an approach is consistent with the language of the Regulation and with common sense.

Just because a non duty injury or condition has been accelerated, without it being substantial, it matters not and in any case common sense reigns.  The trouble we have is that Wirz has no common sense and the moralistic determinations of some SMPs are zero.  With a predetermined desire to reduce, they will go to whatever lengths to justify apportionment.  Understanding the whole picture by demanding (with threats of suspension of an award) full medical records from birth  is their favoured way of introducing apportionment.  In effect this is a alwyer’s trick to carry out the unlawful act of revisiting causation.

The second Walther judicial review Met v The Police Medical Appeal Board [2013] was instigated by the Met in 2013 who attempted to remove the award granted to David Walther by the PMAB tasked to revisit the question after the 2010 judgement won by Mr Walther.

The judge this time, Mr Justice Collins, said this:

Only if there will be no loss of earning capacity resulting from the injury when the officer is medically retired will it be likely to be the case that there was no substantial contribution.

In the end Justice Collin’s agreed with the PMAB and David Walther kept his injury award.

But, rather contradictory, instead of the decade stated in the first case by Mr Justice Irwin, even if a duty injury had caused only an acceleration of symptoms of 18 months to 2 years, if at the time the question was being considered by the SMP, the disablement was the result of the injury, then the officer would be entitled to an award.

But the interesting point is what Justice Collins said about Regulation 37. The basis for Collins J’s view was that he considered regulation 37, which provides for reassessment of injury pensions where there has been substantial alteration in the degree of disablement, enabled there to be a later assessment as to whether an underlying condition had overtaken any disablement resulting from the injury.

Specifically he is referring to David Walther’s problem of degenerative disc changes of the L4/5 and L5/S1 discs and prominent disc bulges at T12/4, L4/5 and L5/S1.  All these were explicitly listed when Mr Walther was retired.  It does not follow then that injuries not listed, or not known about, when the medical retirement was given can be reintroduced by a later review.  This would be contrary to the Laws and Pollard cases.

Of course, the existence of Regulation 37 helps everyone when the duty to review is used correctly. It is a provision which can be sparingly used, with plentiful discretion, to help ensure the correct level of injury pension is paid. It forbids all need for speculation about what might occur in the future. An injury pension is granted at a rate commensurate with what has occurred in the past and what disablement the individual exhibits in the here and now.

It says nothing whatever about the extra-regulatory wage comparison exercises practices by some PPAs which remain the aspect of reviews which create the most persistent and most aggressive forms of abuse of the Regulations.

Another area of particular difficulty arising from the second Walther decision may be the Judge’s interpretation of regulation 37, central to his reasoning overall, that it permits a reduction for David Walther’s injury award once a period of simple acceleration has passed. Collins J did not refer in his judgement to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Metropolitan Police Authority v Laws and the PMAB.  We will never know how a review would affect Mr Walther as the Met do not review unless a person asks to be reviewed.

And here lies the problem.  The two Walther cases do conflict somewhat even though David Walther won both. Nicholas Wirz, without regard to what is right or just or reasonable, is trying to populate the void that now exists by using the contradiction to reduce injury awards.

Even though both Walther cases involved the original decision and applied to someone with co-existing duty and non-duty injuries at the time of the award, Wirz seemingly wants SMPs to apportion everyone and to use Regulation 37 to do it.

IODPA is certain that a further judicial review will clarify the issue for once and for all but we again return to the example of the man in our question of PTSD and a coma after a car accident.

The question on the legality walks in parallel with what is morally right – the spirit of the law is phrase often quoted.  IODPA is a much-needed counter to people like Wirz and part of its role is to shout out quite clearly that legal questions with a moral content are usually easy to answer if the person invoking the questions does so with a just mind.

The law itself is no more than a codified expression of moral standards. It arises and lives as a demonstration of the combined moral core of the people. The law should not be a plaything for the likes of Wirz, Colley and Baker. IODPA has the will and the means to see that they, and others who try to bend the scope and intention of the Regulations into unrecognisable shapes will always be challenged, and will always be made to mend their ways.