Pension Ombudsman

Pension Ombudsman Update Summer 2017

Pension Ombudsman Update Summer 2017

Welcome to our new Pensions Ombudsman Update. These updates are designed to help you get to grips with the Ombudsman’s thinking, to keep track of decisions on matters concerning police and fire service injury awards and non police related injury benefit schemes and to identify underlying trends.

Published in our “news” section, we will try to summarise the interesting decisions of the past three months or so.

John Lewis Partnership Pension Scheme (PO-11695)

Mr N has complained that the Trustee did not take the decision to cease his ill health retirement pension in a proper manner. In particular, he considers it placed too great a reliance on the advice from its own occupational health physician and did not give reasons for preferring her advice.

In PO-11695 Mr N (17 May 2017) the JOHN LEWIS PARTNERSHIP scheme trustees decided (having used the Trustee’s occupational health physician, Dr Eraneva, to consider medical evidence) that the member’s ill-health pension should be suspended as his condition was not permanent, despite the trustee having decided in 2009 and 2012 that it was. The Ombudsman’s Adjudicator was unable to find evidence of any change in the member’s condition or proposed treatments since those assessments.

The decision made it clear that there is an underlying principle that a pension, once in payment, was payable for life. A natural reading of the John Lewis scheme rule provided discretion to vary, suspend or reinstate pension was one that looked for a rational basis for change. The trustee did not apply its mind to the specific question of whether it should remove the existing entitlement, but took an approach akin to requiring the member to make a fresh application for an incapacity pension. This was maladministration and the trustee was directed to re-consider the decision to suspend the pension.

The Deputy Ombudsman accepted that the John Lewis scheme did not have to continue to pay an incapacity pension if this was no longer justified, but the trustee had to be able to point to a change in the member’s circumstances. The discretion to suspend was not an opportunity for the trustee to change its mind or interfere in its predecessors’ decisions.

Mr N stated that the Trustees placed too great a reliance on the advice from its own occupational health physician (Dr Eraneva) and did not give reasons for preferring her advice.

Whilst saying that it is not the role of the Ombudsman to review the medical evidence, the Deputy Ombudsman said;

but I also have reservations about the standard of proof applied by Dr Eraneva

Our Comment

The John Lewis scheme is a discretionary scheme whereas the police injury benefit Regulations are a statutory scheme. This is not the first time that the Pension Ombudsman has been guided by a purposive view of scheme rules dealing with ill-health. In PO-9309 Mrs R (10 June 2016) the Ombudsman opined that the starting position, where an employer had a discretion to pay a discretionary ill-health enhancement, should be to pay it.

All too often, because of the influence of NWEF , the selected medical practitioners used by police forces consider themselves as quasi-judicial and supposed “judges of fact”.

In fully upholding Mr N’s complaint, the Pension Ombudsman is showing a pattern that the views of the scheme’s own occupational health doctor do not trump the person’s own clinicians.  This is inline with previous decisions, such as the ill-health early retirement of Mr Y (PO-13059) when it was found that the employer’s flawed decision over-relied on its own medical advisers’ opinions.

 

 

 

The Paradox of BT’s Occupational Health Service

The Paradox of BT’s Occupational Health Service

“But how will I eat cake if my head is over there, and my hands are over here?”
Marie Antoinette

An interesting decision has just been published on the Pension Ombudsman website.  It concerns Mr E versus British Telecommunications PLC and involves ill-health and medical retirement.

The paradox here is that BT wanted it’s cake and to eat it.  It wanted to dismiss someone due to ill-health but it didn’t want to pay that person the injury benefit that person was entitled to.

Mr E complained that BT, his former employer, refused to award him BT’s medical retirement benefits.  The Pensions Ombudsman found in favour of Mr E and told BT to do it properly.

Displaying the arrogance mostly seen by police pension authorities, BT didn’t like the fact the PO was making a decision in the case.  With unabashed chutzpah, BT submitted that the employee benefit is not within jurisdiction of the PO because it is neither an “occupational pension scheme” nor a “personal pension scheme”.

Dismissing BT’s argument with savagery, the PO clearly stated that such matters are within it’s remit:

The right to bring a complaint to the Ombudsman, is a statutory right to complain to a body established by the Pension Schemes Act 1993, which seems to me to fall squarely within that exclusion.

Play for the ball BT! … never go for the man – or indeed the referee!  Meaning: assess the point of law but don’t go making a proclamation that the referee shouldn’t be on the pitch.  This desperation shows their argument is lost already and shows them up as idiots.

Anyway, back to Mr E.

BT refused his ill-health retirement on the basis that their Occupation Health Service (OHS) “deemed Mr E was not suffering from ill health and that he was not permanently incapacitated as other treatments were not exhausted”.

This is exactly the issue facing those injured on duty and on long term sick from police duties. Not having exhausted all treatment options is an often repeated mantra to deny permanency.

The trouble with BT’s claim (that Mr E had not already exhausted all treatment options) was that he had already been dismissed on grounds of capability due to ill health.  Before the PO got involved, he had taken BT to the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and unlawful deductions of wages. The matter was settled with an agreement and BT paid him £106,750.

But BT obviously had the hump and decided to prolong the misery for longer.

So what did the PO say about BT’s duplicity?  The skulduggery of, on the one hand dismissing someone for ill-health, and on the other saying his ill-health wasn’t sufficient to pay a medical benefit?

The PO adjudicator said although BT through their OHS had stated that alternative treatments were available, the OHS did not state what outcome, on the balance of probabilities, these treatments would produce for Mr E.

BT did not ask their OHS this simple question.  In other words just saying there’s treatments available isn’t enough.

The OHS used a doctor named  Dr Lichfield.  This occupational health doctor made a general statement that he thought improved medical management would not suggest that Mr E remains incapacitated.  Dr Lichfield said:

Mr [E] appeared not to have undergone the full range of treatments for his condition and, in particular, that he had not seen a mental health specialist

Again, back to injury awards, this is a common statement found in SMP reports that refuse applications for ill-health retirements.

The PO considered the medical opinion of Dr Lichfield as not sufficient as it wasn’t good enough.  OHS and BT needed to establish what Mr E’s prognosis would be if he completed the entire course of available treatments.  And they hadn’t done that so the complaint was upheld.

This decision has overlap into the world of injury awards.  It shows the PO isn’t frightened off when an organisation challenges his jurisdiction.  It also shows that a medical opinion is not good enough when that decision is based on the wrong question, or the reasoning behind the decision was either absent or poorly explained.

Well done Pension Ombudsman.

Avenues of Appeal

Avenues of Appeal

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realised that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

If you are unhappy about any regulatory decision made by the Police Pension Authority (PPA) concerning an injury award or ill health retirement you are able to appeal against the decision. (In most forces the PPA is an office vested in the sole personage of the Chief Constable)

The intention of this post is to remind our readers of some of the ways injustice can be resolved.  As with other legal challenges, an appeal needs to be based on some good reason. Therefore, you will need to be able to point to any apparent error of fact or law which the authority has made.

A PPA carries ultimate responsibility, and will be the body named in the appeal, but the actual decision in question may have been made under delegation by a HR person, some other civilian worker or a SMP. A SMP has a regulatory duty to make certain decisions on behalf of the PPA. Decisions made by a Police Medical Appeal Board (PMAB) can also be subject to appeal.

The avenues of appeal available depend on the Regulation the decision was made under and whether you are currently serving or medically retired. Any decision which you receive from the PPA, SMP or a PMAB will be set out in writing and will normally contain the rationale or reason for the decision. A decision notification should also outline the reasons for the decision, and list avenues through which you may appeal the decision, as well as the relevant time limits within which an appeal must be made.

As well as formal avenues of appeal it is worth bearing in mind that complaints can be made about any individual employed by a police force, or against the police force itself. Complaints are justified wherever there is incompetence, injustice or a refusal to act within the rules of the pension schemes. All forces are required to have a formal Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure (IDRP) and will provide you with details of how it is operated.

Complaints about alleged criminal acts can be made to the Independent Police And Crime Commissioner.

Complaints to governing bodies (e.g. the General Medical Council or the Law Society) about the behaviour of the decision maker can also be pursued either unilaterally or combination to an Ombudsman concerning further maladministration.

Here is a brief list of the more usual avenues for appeal.

  • Regulation 32 Reconsideration (Further reference to medical authority – PIBR 2006)
  • Police Medical Appeals Board (Regulation 31 PIBR 2006 –  Appeal to board of medical referees)
  • Crown Court
  • Employment Tribunal & Employment Appeal Tribunal
  • Pension Ombudsman
  • Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Equality Advisory and Support Service
  • Judicial Review
Regulation 32

Of particular note, as being probably the most useful, yet most under-used mechanism for having questionable decisions corrected is contained in regulation 32 of The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. This is a very important provision of the Regulations, which every serving and retired officer who seeks or who is in receipt of an injury award should make themselves, their Federation Rep and any legal representative familiar with. Here it is in full:

Further reference to medical authority

32.—(1) A court hearing an appeal under regulation 34 or a tribunal hearing an appeal under regulation 35 may, if they consider that the evidence before the medical authority who has given the final decision was inaccurate or inadequate, refer the decision of that authority to him, or as the case may be it, for reconsideration in the light of such facts as the court or tribunal may direct, and the medical authority shall accordingly reconsider his, or as the case may be its, decision and, if necessary, issue a fresh report which, subject to any further reconsideration under this paragraph, shall be final.

(2) The police [pension] authority and the claimant may, by agreement, refer any final decision of a medical authority who has given such a decision to him, or as the case may be it, for reconsideration, and he, or as the case may be it, shall accordingly reconsider his, or as the case may be its, decision and, if necessary, issue a fresh report, which, subject to any further reconsideration under this paragraph or paragraph (1) or an appeal, where the claimant requests that an appeal of which he has given notice (before referral of the decision under this paragraph) be notified to the Secretary of State, under regulation 31, shall be final.

(3) If a court or tribunal decide, or a claimant and the police [pension] authority agree, to refer a decision to the medical authority for reconsideration under this regulation and that medical authority is unable or unwilling to act, the decision may be referred to a duly qualified medical practitioner or board of medical practitioners selected by the court or tribunal or, as the case may be, agreed upon by the claimant and the police authority, and his, or as the case may be its, decision shall have effect as if it were that of the medical authority who gave the decision which is to be reconsidered.’

(4) In this regulation a medical authority who has given a final decision means the selected medical practitioner, if the time for appeal from his decision has expired without an appeal to a board of medical referees being made, or if, following a notice of appeal to the police [pension] authority, the police [pension] authority have not yet notified the Secretary of State of the appeal, and the board of medical referees, if there has been such an appeal.

The decision maker, which can be either the SMP, or a PMAB, is asked to look again at (reconsider) the decision, in the light of argument and/or information presented by the individual subject to the decision. It provides a simple way of having a mistake corrected.

Mr Justice King in the Haworth judicial review stated that [Regulation 32 is 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.’

Anyone considering using regulation 32 should note well that there is no time limit on when it can be used. It can be activated at any time following a decision – even many years later. We know of instances where historic maladministration has been discovered by pensioners, who can then use regulation 32 to have matters corrected. A typical instance is where an incorrect degree of disablement has been decided.

It is, however, well worth requesting a reconsideration of a decision at the same time as giving notice of appeal to a PMAB. That way, you secure registration of the PMAB appeal within the time limit, which allows the PPA to correct matters swiftly, thus negating the need to go to a PMAB. This has mutual benefits to both the individual and the PPA as stress and cost can be minimised.

One further valuable aspect of this regulation is that if the original decision maker is ‘unable or unwilling’ to make the reconsideration (a SMP might have retired, died, or simply not wish to be proved wrong) then individual is granted an extraordinary power. The individual and the PPA need to agree over selection of the alternate ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’ who will make the reconsideration. That means the individual can object to any doctor proposed by the PPA (on reasonable grounds, such as suspicion of bias or lack of appropriate qualifications). More importantly, though still untested in the Courts, it seems that the individual has the right to propose a duly qualified medical practitioner of his or her own choosing – and that doctor need not be someone who is already acting in the role of SMP for any force.

PMAB

A Police Medical Appeal Board is the method of appeal stipulated in the Regulations as an appeal to board of medical referees when person is dissatisfied with the decision of the selected medical practitioner as set out in a report under Regulation 30(6). A PMAB usually consists of a panel of three (two occupation health doctors and a specialist in the condition being assessed). Notice of intention to appeal to a PMAB needs to be given to a PPA within 28 days of receipt of formal notification of a decision. The appellant then has a further 28 days in which to provide the PPA with the full grounds for the appeal. (There is discretion for these time limits to be extended, within reason.)

A police pension authority does not have the right to appeal to a PMAB and therefore must take a SMPs decision it contests to judicial review.

Crown Court

If a serving officer simultaneously applies for an injury award/ill-health retirement and the police pension authority fails or refuses to refer the decision to a SMP, or a decision of the police authority is that the officers refusal to accept medical treatment is unreasonable, then the refusal or the suggested treatment can be challenged in a Crown Court.

Employment Tribunals

Employment Tribunals are responsible for hearing claims from people who think someone such as an employer or potential employer has treated them unlawfully (unfair dismissal, discrimination, unfair deductions from pay) . Employment Appeal Tribunals are responsible for handling appeals against decisions made by the Employment Tribunal where a legal mistake may have been made in the case.

Post-termination victimisation or discrimination claims are justiciable under the Equality Act 2010 following the recent Court of Appeal Judgments in Jessemy v Rowstock Ltd and Anor [2014] and in Onu v Akwiwu & Anor [2014]

In both decisions Court of Appeal decided that the Equality Act 2010 should be read to cover post-employment victimisation.  This should clear up the uncertainty caused by conflicting Employment Appeal Tribunal decisions on this issue.  In other words, a ‘post-employment‘ medically retired officer has the right to bring a disability, age or gender discrimination claim to an employment tribunal.

Pension Ombudsman

The Pension Ombudsman (PO) has legal powers to settle complaints, maladministration and disputes.  In recent years the PO has played an important part in having maladministration of injury awards corrected. If the PO decides someone responsible for a decision or the wrongful exercise of a power of discretion, or has got the law wrong or has not followed the scheme’s rules or regulations, or not taken the right things into account, they can tell them to go through the process again, but properly.

If financial loss has occurred, the PO can enforce the decision maker to put the disadvantaged individual back into the position they would have been in if everything had been done correctly. The PO can also decide upon redress for non-financial injustice, whether someone has been caused significant inconvenience, disappointment or distress. Although amounts of compensation are usually rather low, they serve to underline the finding of wrongdoing.

Every pension scheme has to have an Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (IDRP) system built in to enable members of that scheme to complain about matters concerning the administration of their pension (section 50 of the Pensions Act 1995). Injury awards are no exception.

An IDRP can be a one or two part process. One part may settle the matter, but if not on it goes to part two. Be very aware though that the ‘I’ in IDRP does not stand for Independent. In part one a senior person is asked to consider your submission. If there is no resolution, then someone else is appointed to take a look. That person may be another force employee, or, more often will be someone with no close connection to the force who is deemed to have some relevant expertise. We have no data on how many IDRPs produce an acceptable solution at either stage. The process can take several months.  If a solution isn’t found or the IDRP process is ignored, then it can go to thePensions Ombudsman’s office for adjudication.

But if you don’t initiate an IDRP you will find that the Pensions Ombudsman – who is the person who can really do something about maladministration – will not be able to accept your complaint. He likes to see himself as a mediator, a settler of differences, and an arbiter of the law. He wants to see the parties to a dispute make efforts to resolve it before he is asked to get involved.

Quite often the failure of the PPA to correctly deal with the IDRP stages adds to strength of evidence that maladministration has occurred.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman provides a service to the public by undertaking independent investigations into complaints that government departments, the National Health Service in England and a range of other public bodies in the UK have not acted properly or fairly, or have provided a poor service.

At this time complaints are raised through a person’s MP.  Soon the service will be open to take complaints directly.

This real case story neatly summarises what this ombudsman can do: Read Mr R’s Story .   What happened to Mr R was an example of disability discrimination and serves a good example of the Ombudsman providing redress for the individual – and also recommending systemic improvements for a wider public benefit.  It is a synonym of how some SMPs treat those disabled people forced in front of them.

An important point regarding his ombudsman is that complaints about the exercise of clinical judgement are within its jurisdiction.

Equality and Human Rights Commission & Equality Advisory and Support Service

The Commission has responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Scotland and Wales.  It took over the responsibilities of three former commissions: the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission (which dealt with gender equality) and the Disability Rights Commission.
The EHRC’s functions do not extend to Northern Ireland, where there is a separate Equality Commission (ECNI) and a Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), both established under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) is an advice service. It is aimed at individuals who need expert information, advice and support on discrimination and human rights issues and the applicable law, particularly when this is more than other advice agencies and local organisations can provide.

Judicial review

Judicial review is an audit of the legality of decision-making by public bodies.  Judicial review may be used where there is no right of appeal or where all avenues of appeal have been exhausted

  • when a decision-maker misdirects itself in law, exercises a power wrongly, or improperly purports to exercise a power that it does not have
  • a decision may be challenged as unreasonable if it “is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it”
  • failure to observe statutory procedures or natural justice
  • when a public body is, by its own statements or acts, required to respond in a particular way but fails to do so.

A JR is a remedy of last resort.  However, the Court has a wide discretion to hear cases even if there is an alternative appeal mechanism available in line with M and G v IAT 2004. They successfully argued that the statutory appeal was both procedurally and substantively inadequate to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers.

Applications for JR will be refused are those where there are proceedings in another forum already underway or imminent.

 

We hope this brief guide to routes of appeal will serve to inform and encourage all serving, about to be retired and retired officers who believe they have suffered at the hands of the widespread incompetence and ignorance of the Regulations, so frequently displayed by those in authority over their ill health and injury pensions, to stand up and challenge decisions which they believe are wrong.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to how to appeal. In all cases, you should seek professional advice and assistance before initiating any avenue of appeal or challenge. IODPA can, and will, give initial advice and information, and in some areas the Federation will be knowledgeable and helpful. IODPA retains excellent solicitors who can be instructed by individuals, and funding for them can be obtained via the Federation.

The Wisdom of the Pension Ombudsman

The Wisdom of the Pension Ombudsman

“He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak.”
Michel de Montaigne

In 2016, the months of September and October has seen two interesting decisions handed down by the Pension Ombudsman (PO).  In both decisions it is clear the arrogance of the pension authority involved led them to think the forcefulness of their command would conceal the lack of reason within.

One decision concerns Thames Valley Police and how this force (and vicariously by the SMPs they appointed) incorrectly apportioned an on-duty injury by trying to imply that the complainant, Ms E, had a pre-existing vulnerability to mental illness.  The infamous  Dr Cheng is in the centre of this particular stagnant mire.

The second Pension Ombudsman decision we are going to discuss here isn’t about police injury awards but it does involve ill-health retirement.  Mr Y complained to the Pensions Ombudsman that NGF Europe Pension Fund’s refusal of an ill-health early retirement pension was maladministration.  The Ombudsman upheld Mr Y’s complaint and directed the employer to make the decision again.

The points raised by the PO in these decisions have huge implications for police forces. Each will be discussed but let us first look at Mr Y’s case.

The PO found that NGF relied too much on it’s own occupation health clinician and ignored the expert opinion of the patient’s own clinicians:

NGF’s view that it is entitled to prefer its medical advisers’ opinions when there is a conflict of opinion between them and those of Mr Y’s GP and the consultant treating him, demonstrates that NGF saw its medical advisers’ own opinions of Mr Y’s state of health as at least equal to those of a specialist in a particular field of medicine. https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-13059/ngf-europe-pension-fund/

Effectively, the PO is saying employers can not simply rely on the recommendations  of their own ‘in-house’ medical advisers and that it is not…

“[…] rational to give considerable weight to a prediction that had not been fully explored and was outside the adviser’s remit”. https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-13059/ngf-europe-pension-fund/

The decision says that, whether or not the employer (or regards to injury awards, the police pension authority) is understandably concerned about if the treating doctors of the patient have understood the definition of total incapacity, it can not give undue considerable weight to the opinion of it’s own assessor.

How often is a one-sided view taken by a SMP?  Every-time that SMP is trained or advised by certain elements within NAMF is the answer.

It is a well recorded fact that often SMPs deliberately disregard what a former officer’s General Practitioner or treating consultant have said.  Indeed Nicolas Wirz, solicitor for Northumbria police has been so unguarded as to write in his NAMF approved ‘guidance’ to SMPs that:

SMPs are likely to be more skilled at resolving disputes of medical fact [Para 4.12 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION]

and

A common occurrence is for the treating physician to “fudge” the issue [Para 4.14 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION]

In other words, a highly qualified, experienced specialist consultant’s opinion is nothing compared to that of some money-grabbing quack who has jumped on the gravy train of doing SMP work. Moreover, said consultant will be biased, whereas the SMP will be squeaky clean unbiased.

Come off it Wirzy-boy, pull the other one, it’s got bells on. Do you really think that you can fool anyone other than the intellectually-challenged likes of Cheng and Nightingale, etc. with this sort of manure? You have got dear old Karen thinking she is a High Court Judge who can ‘direct’ people to do her bidding, and good old Billy Chung Wing prefers not to engage his brain other than to remember where he has stashed all his illicit earnings. The rest of the medical profession have wisely elected to give SMP work a wide berth because of you.

But we digress – the case of Mr Y shows that the PO disagrees with Mr Wirz.  In fact it leaves Mr Wirz’s claims naked.  His imagined invention of an aura of being ‘judicially all-powerful’ is simply his cloak for SMPs to wear. Cloaks that make them feel better about themselves.  Not only delusional cloaks, if cloaks can be delusional, but clearly not in accordance with fact that the SMP is acting as an employer’s agent.

An agent with a role defined in statute – but an agent of an employer nonetheless.

The SMP is no more a presiding judge than, say, a Custody Sergeant with his duties defined in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

The PO declared that when it comes to Mr Y’s ill-health retirement there were relevant questions which should have been asked and that the employer and his medical adviser should not apply a selective restriction to the reports provided by the patient’s clinicians.

The PO’s decision could be exactly applied to the erroneous methodology preached by Wirz.  The PO has said it is wrong for pension authorities, like NGF, to only take into account its medical advisers’ opinions as this, by it’s nature, will also take in irrelevant considerations.

So yet again the proclamations of Nicholas Wirz are proved wrong – SMPs must resist being brainwashed by the outpourings from this darkly dubious source into thinking the Regulations are too complex for the patient’s clinicians to comprehend.  If the SMP has suspicions the clinician doesn’t understand the statutory question then he shall not dismiss the opinion outright, he should seek clarification.  Put plainly, the PO says they should just ask:

It would not have been difficult to ask them, but this was not done; https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-13059/ngf-europe-pension-fund/

In the PO’s judgement NGF Europe held a dismissive view of important reports and it was wrong for it to claim that it had enough evidence already and clarification was unnecessary.  This arrogance conveys the impression that the decision not to award a total incapacity pension had already been made.

And so, onto the decision in respect of Ms E’s complaint to the PO.

This concerned the granting of an original injury award.  The first SMP, Dr Leeming-Latham, made the  decision to apportion Ms E’s injury benefit on nothing more substantial than than the appearance of a single entry in her GP’s notes dating from 1988 stating, “Depressional neurosis”.

Despite being told that a reconsideration of Dr Leeming-Latham ‘s decision (under regulation 32) would be a paper exercise, Ms E had the unfortunate experience of attending an appointment with Dr Cheng.  Not only did Dr Cheng think the apportionment applied by Leeming-Latham was reasonable but he also considered the 1988 notes demanded an apportionment bedfellow, and commented that:

general formal grievances that were not upheld and disciplinary proceedings should not be classified as an injury on duty”. https://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/determinations/2016/po-5477/police-injury-benefit-scheme/

You can see how Dr Cheng’s brain was working … when you are asked to review a complaint of inappropriate apportionment, why stop at one.  Why not add further apportionment and then you can try to apportion the whole award away?

Seizing the chance with both hands to go gaga full-bore crazy, Dr Cheng continued by saying Ms E actually had a problem with her wrist, which was incorrect.  On top of all this Ms E had expressed concern her papers might have been mixed up with someone else’s. She also said that Dr Cheng had told her he never gave anyone a 100% degree of disablement.

This was all taken to a PMAB, where the basis for the appeal was that Ms E disputed Dr Cheng’s opinion that her disablement placed her in Band Two for an injury award.

Ms E won the appeal and was awarded a band three award.  The PMAB found Dr Cheng was wrong and concluded that the psychological impairment arising from perceptions of work events were the only factor contributing to permanent disablement and that apportionment was not appropriate.

A victory against the odds!  The PO mentioned in his judgement that Ms E raised concerns that the PMAB appeared to exhibit bias.  Ms E specifically called into question the unnecessary time delays, the lack of female presence, that there was no mention at the hearing of her being put under surveillance while on sick leave, nothing submitted relating disciplinary proceedings whilst she was on sick leave and the horrendous situation of the conflict of interest that existed as TVP’s Pensions Manager and Dr Cheng both sat on the national HR board for the PMAB.  Ms E was awarded £750 for all the maladministration.

And now we can weave together the similarity between Ms E’s decision and Mr Y’s.

Just like NGF Europe Pension Fund’s modus operandi, both TVP and the PMAB “cherry picked” Ms E’s documents.  Favourable reports from a Dr Logsdail were not considered and personal development reviews, papers relating to her grievances, newspaper articles criticising her, and emails from senior staff criticising her were all ignored by Dr Cheng and the PMAB.

Sound familar?  TVP, as a pension authority, had a duty not to have a predetermined decision in mind.  But they used Cheng and Leeming-Latham to get the result they wanted by ignoring everything that contradicted their point of view.

This is exactly what the PO is getting at in the decision of Mr Y.

The simple message for all police pension authorities is to keep this in mind: you only get one chance to do things right the first time.

Why not dispense with your biased SMPs and save money and improve the quality of injury award decisions by making fewer mistakes and learning more from those you do make.  Tell the SMPs you use to look objectively at all the evidence placed in front of them.  Stop using Dr Cheng and the number of appeals will plummet.

This means also put the Book of NAMF in the bin where it belongs.

It must be better, quietly and without fuss, noise and bluster, to aim to get things right in the first place rather than having to forced to put them right through expensive appeal and complaint processes. You may well think that the likes of Cheng and Wirz save you money. You would be wrong to think that. The legal challenges you are facing now are only the tip of the iceberg.

Henderson’s Precedent

Henderson’s Precedent

Don’t use the conduct of a fool as a precedent
The Talmud.

Sometimes you read a decision handed down by an authority and are so appalled by the maladministration which is revealed by the light of justice in action that you miss the obvious.

The 2011 Pension Ombudsman’s decision in Mr Henderson’s complaint is one such example. North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA) had foisted upon this poor medically retired police officer a level of injustice concerning his pension such that anyone with a grain of common sense would have recognised as the actions of fools.

(Note that, in another example of foolishness, when the old Police Authorities were scrapped, the Government decided that each Chief Constable should be the police pension authority. In other words, they now not only are the injury pension scheme managers, but are also supposed to be their own oversight agency. Given that many of them have not a clue about the Regulations, and nor do their so-called professional HR people, it is no wonder that NYPA could make such an almighty cock-up – and then not even have the good grace to put things right without the need for the directions of the Pensions Ombudsman.)

Download: Mr M Henderson V North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYP)
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Mr M Henderson V North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYP)

Mr Henderson was retired in 1991, following an assessment by a Dr Givans of permanent disability caused by,

‘. . . problems [that] consist of pain and stiffness in the left knee and right hip with associated weakness of the legs’.

He was awarded an injury pension on band four – the highest level, which is described in the Regulations as, ‘very severe disablement.’

Mr Henderson’s degree of disablement was reviewed in 1993, when it was decided there was no change to his circumstances.  Some fourteen years passed, during which time Mr Henderson struggled on with no ability to work and earn, then, in 2007 he was reviewed for a second time. NYPA performed a complete reversal from the 1993 review and this time, for reasons unknown, thought he could be a personal security co-ordinator, a scrutiny officer or a rent recovery officer.  This is someone who had been a band four for 16 years.

His injury pension was reduced by NYPA from a band four to a band two. We can only imagine the huge shock and upset this must have caused the poor man, who had never been fit to work since leaving the police.

He appealed, but, amazingly, the PMAB magnified his torture by reducing him further from a band two to a 0% band one.  The (cough) ‘wisdom’ of the PMAB was they thought Mr Henderson’s right hip problem was not related to the injury on duty.

So far, so bad.

Mr Henderson turned to the Pensions Ombudsman for some sane insight into the situation.

Fortunately, (and inevitably) the PO upheld Mr Henderson’s complaint and found against both the PMAB and NYPA. The PO directed that North Yorkshire Police Authority had to refer Mr Henderson’s case back to the PMAB for review and to make it clear to the PMAB what it was to consider.

The PO concluded that:

‘[NYPA had unlawfully] invited the PMAB to reconsider the original decision and expressed its concerns about Dr Givans’ decision’

As readers of our pages will know, it is, and always has been, unlawful to revisit any final decision on the cause of disablement when conducting a review of degree of disablement. NYPA and the PMAB were apparently blithely unaware of this. So much for professionalism. Or is it that neither actually cared a damn, and just did what they wanted to do, regardless of the law?

Before we jump ahead and talk about an important implication of the PO’s decision, we need to have a crash course about some legalese.  Hold on though as the punchline will be worth it.

The legal doctrine of precedent has a Latin term: stare decisis – ‘standing of previous decisions’ as the legal principle of determining points in litigation according to precedent.  It means that Judges must follow past decisions to ensure certainty.

William Blackstone (English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century) opined that judges do not create or change laws. The law has always been that way and the Judge’s role is to discover and declare the true meaning.  Since it is discovered by the Judge that the law has always existed in the way he or she rules then this means that case law operates retrospectively.

There is a hierarchy of precedent that starts from the Supreme Court, goes down through the Court of Appeal, High Court, Crown Court, County Court all the way to Magistrates and tribunals.

Obiter dictum translates to “said in passing” and this exists in the doctrine of precedent covering decisions by legal authority lower in the hierarchy than the Courts themselves.

In legal-speak the Pension Ombudsman is a ‘persuasive authority’.  In plain language this means that, although a PO decision is final and binding on both parties (and an appeal of a determination of the Pensions Ombudsman can only be lodged at the High Court on points of law or questions of fact), the decision does not set a definitive precedent onto judgements made by a higher court.

But, as a persuasive authority, any given PO decision is one which any higher the court can, and will, consider and may be persuaded by it.

It is also a decision which any police pension authority, and any PMAB ought to take due notice of, as to act contrary to it is sure to attract challenge and appeal.

Now we have talked about the persuasive precedent of the PO, let us return to the decision made in Mr Henderson’s case.

In the conclusion of the decision the Ombudsman stated this:

NYPA shall refer Mr Henderson’s case back to the PMAB for review and make it clear to the PMAB what it is to consider. NYPA shall restore Mr Henderson’s injury benefit to its previous rate until such time as a final decision is reached.

The PO decided the decision of the PMAB would be quashed.  It must be readdressed – this time correctly – and no reduction to rate of injury benefit shall occur until it is all over.

In other words, until there is finality – until all appeal avenues have been exhausted – the injury award of Mr Henderson must not be altered.

Persuasive precedent.

Bully boy tactics by civilian so-called medical retirement officers, director of resources or other such non-medical technocrats should please take very careful note of the PO’s conclusions in the Henderson case.

Such people have been known, with intent fuelled by self-interest, to casually make unlawful threats to disabled former officers of suspension of their injury award or punitive reduction to a band one.

These threats are made just because there is no capitulation to their wrongful orders for disclosure of medical records since birth or non-completion of an odious and irrelevant questionnaire asking for sensitive personal information which no PPA has a right to demand.

They need to be reminded that not only does Regulation 33 not apply in such circumstances (decision upon the available evidence if there is a failure to attend a medical examination), but the PO has made it very clear that any reduction in pension payment, whether made lawfully or not,  has to be suspended until all avenues of appeal are exhausted.

It rather takes the wind out the sails of their threat doesn’t it?

PPAs and their HR managers – and compliant (‘Show me the money’) SMPs should take note that if the sanction of reduction of pension has been performed without any medical evidence an appeal is clearly inevitable.

Taking the precedent to it’s logical conclusion, any punitive unlawful threat to ‘do this, or else!’ is meaningless.  All that is being achieved is to take the decision out of the hands of the police pension authority and into the remit of an appeal.  The reduction can not be enforced until the appeal process has finalised.

It seems to us in IODPA that the system is well and truly broken. Chief Constables and their staff lack the necessary expertise to understand the Regulations. In some areas, they see injury pensions as a drain on resources, so throw their PPA hat into the bin and clap on their ‘I’m concerned about the budget’ hat and set about scheming how they can manipulate the review process so as to reduce injury pensions.

PMABs, if anything, are worse. They are a panel of medical professionals whose knowledge of the Regulations is based on out of date Home Office guidance, which has no legal authority and which has been roundly discredited by the Courts. They struggle with the niceties of legal protocol. To them the rules of precedent are a dark pool into which they prefer not to venture.

So, PPAs, PMABs, HR types, SMPs and all the other acronymic twerps who are currently the bane of the lives of disabled former police officers continue to act according to their own vacuous precedents, rather than to legal precedent. They keep on repeating, and elaborating on, their own woeful mistakes.

They are truly fools, one and all.

 

 

 

 

Repository of Pension Ombudsman decisions

Repository of Pension Ombudsman decisions

Summary of the Ombudsman’s determination and reasons
The complaint should be upheld against the NIPB because they have failed to take steps to establish whether or not Mr X is in receipt of the correct level of benefit.
– Pension Ombudsman determination PO-7548

The Pensions Ombudsman has power to investigate and determine complaints of maladministration in connection with occupational and personal pension schemes. The power can be exercised in relation to complaints against the trustees or managers of a scheme but also in relation to complaints against a person concerned with the administration of the scheme.

When there is a complaint or dispute, the complainant must (in the majority of cases) first try to sort it out with those responsible for the management of the pension scheme.  In the case of injury awards the responsible person is the police pension authority.  Often it is the delegated senior manager, such as the director of human resources, who deals with the internal dispute resolution procedure.

There has been a large amount of decisions made by the Pensions Ombudsman regarding maladministration of police injury awards and we at IODPA have collated the determinations into a single repository.

Pension Ombudsman Decisions

You can find the page on the category section on the right of the each page.

PO decisions

As new decisions are published we will keep the list updated.  We will also keep using the search functionality on the Pension Ombudsman website to discover those decisions that have at first been missed.

The Pension Ombudsman often summarises case-law in an accessible and plain-speaking manner.  It is also revealing to note the same police forces that keep appearing in the determinations.

Soon we hope to add a small description to each decision to identify the matter at the heart of the complaint to make it easier for the reader to determine relevancy.  This will be done  as and when we have available time.

 

 

 

 

 

Some PMAB Statistics

Some PMAB Statistics

“There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
Benjamin Disraeli

A (probably false) attribution to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain.  This comment was never valid. At least not in the direct meaning of the words. It is just a sarcastic statement. It’s true meaning is that it is very dishonourable to present statistical “facts” to convince others that are not aware of the context in what the statistic was derived.

Anyway, always suckers for all things with numbers, we have analysed the data published by the Home Office.  This data is a summary of the number of Police Medical Appeal Boards heard (not cancelled or withdrawn) by forces between November 2008 and October 2014 – so over a 6 year period.

PMABs heard

The above chart shows the number of PMABs by forces over the past 6 years.  In the spirit of Mark Twain it fails to put the count in context though.  You could look at it and pick-out who you think are the nasty Police Pension Authorities, those that are the main offenders of abusing their former officers; but without plotting the number of officers in each force you can’t tell if the PMABs that are heard are ‘as expected’ by a force of that size.

‘Expected’ is a bit of a loaded term – some forces have never had a PMAB so it could be argued that the expected number should be 0.  We live in an imperfect world though, and ‘expected’ in this sense means compared to its peers.

Anyway, moving on: is The Met, with over 70 PMAB hearings, an outlier perhaps due to its size?  Perhaps.

It does give you an idea of some of the possible culprits when you can clearly see…

  • Northumbria (the lair of Solicitor  Nicholas ‘IOD hater General’ Wirz),
  • West and North Yorkshire,
  • West Midlands (home of the National Attendance Management Forum),
  • Nottinghamshire,
  • South Wales

…up in the top tier.  These are the  forces you perhaps don’t want to be medically retired from if you are after a just decision.

Alternatively, Hertfordshire, Cumbria, Northamptonshire and Suffolk seem to do quite well in not forcing their injured former officers to seek appeals.

Now lets look at how everything compares by adding an extra variable – the number of police officers in each force.

pmabratio

The blue line is the number of PMABs expected by a force of any particular size over a 6 year period (remember that ‘expected’ is in relation to a peer group comparison and is not an ideal).

The grey boundary is the margin of error.  The points are the actual PMABs counts plotted by the number of officers.  For simplicity, in the above, the PMAB counts for each of the old Scottish forces have been combined and the relative point relates to the number of current  serving officers in Police Scotland (the exact point is the grey cross slap-bang  in the middle and within the grey boundary).

Any point above the grey boundary is an extremely zealous and nasty Police Pension Authority.  The grey crosses are OK insomuch that their PMAB numbers are roughly what is expected, hence those point markers that are not grey  crosses are not OK!  In other words, here you can see members of the nasty party in glorious techi-colour:

Derbyshire (blue circle),

North Yorkshire (orange cross),

Northumbria (green diamond),

Nottinghamshire (red square),

South Wales (purple inverse triangle),

West Midlands (brown triangle) and

West Yorkshire (pink circle).

These are all the forces who are infamous in their drive to push and bully their IODs into PMAB, the Pension Ombudsman and Judicial Review.

Finally lets see how many cases are being heard by a PMAB panels over time.

PMAB by year

Quite a reduction isn’t it?  In 13/14 there was just a third of PMABs compared to the number heard in 08/09.  This shows quite clearly that Police Pension Authorities have blatantly targeted IODs and it is only the result of Judicial Reviews, Pension Ombudsman decision and the Scoffield report that their ‘wings’ have been clipped. They still try it on but on a lesser scale – eager to bully but not to force another Judicial Review.  The Regulations have not changed so why the variation between forces and the variation over time!  Easily answered:  Police Pension Authorities think they are a law unto themselves.

There is no excuse for this – there should be uniformity and consistency in decisions and no single force (or group of forces) should be allowed to unilaterally undermine statutory legislation that is the Police Injury Benefit Regulations.

Data Analysed in RStudio https://www.rstudio.com/

Mr X

Mr X

“All cruelty springs from weakness.” -Seneca”
Clarissa Wild, Mr. X

 

If ever you think your former police service has your best intentions at heart when they are minded to ‘review’ your injury pension, then please consider the case of Mr X.

Mr X is a IOD pensioner who was retired from The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Policing is tough over there, but the Regulations concerning Injury on Duty awards across the Irish sea are essentially identical to those in and England & Wales.

Heed the wise words of the Pension Ombudsman:

Those cases have been concerned with the Police Injury Benefit Regulations for England and Wales, but the Northern Ireland Regulations mirror these and, therefore, the same principles can be expected to apply.”

Take note that the horrendous saga of maladministration we recount is not an outlier – similar injustice is happening now to dozens of former officers across the country and has the potential to envelope completely the lives of any person put under ‘review’.

Think on this if you are a Federation Rep or a SMP who is reading these words, perhaps tutting to yourself and thinking that we here at IODPA have the wrong end of the stick; that we are against the ‘system’ and ruining everything for every ‘legitimate IOD’.

Yes, that’s how too many Fed think:

‘play along to get along’;

‘don’t rock the boat’;

‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’;

‘You’ve had a good innings’;

‘Just give the doctor whatever he wants’ .

We don’t know which is worse, these pathetic cringing words of advice, or the more usual absence of any useful advice at all.

Well, Fed Reps,SMPs and all IOD pensioners, let us tell you about the 6 years and counting of legal hell suffered by Mr X just because he has an IOD award? Something similar is what all IOD pensioners risk facing if ever their HR Department comes calling with the intent of reviewing their injury pension.

PO-7548 1 Ombudsman’s Determination

Applicant Mr X Scheme Police Injury Benefit Scheme (Northern Ireland) Respondent(s) Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB)

Read the determination yourself here.

Mr X was retired in 1999.  His degree of disablement has been reviewed in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012.  Mr X has needed to complain about gross maladministration to the Pension Ombudsman 3 times and has had determinations made in his favour three times – in April 2013, April 2014 and September 2015.

It is horrific that any police pension authority could get things atrociously wrong again and again.

There is no such thing as a benign review – it rips people apart.

Consider for a moment, if you will, how this man has had what should have been a peaceful retirement shattered.  Over the past 16 years he has been summoned again and again to dance to the tune of the HR department only to be rolled over again and again by the unfeeling, deeply flawed machine of bureaucracy.

Shamefully, he has had to find the strength all by himself, alone, unaided, to undo the wrong visited upon him.  This struggle dominated his days and eroded what remained of his health.

We at IODPA reflect with sorrow that Mr X is a rarity. Very few IOD pensioners have the strength, determination and knowledge to make and follow through any sort of complaint. Alarmingly, we believe that the vast majority of IOD pensioners do not even realise there has been maladministration. Mr X is not a rarity in that respect. He is just one example of the victimisation and maltreatment – we would call it abuse – of former officers who were injured in the line of duty.

The reviews Mr X faced in 2009 and 2012 were found by the Pensions Ombudsman to have been unsound and Mr X was restored to the banding he was on in 2007.

In 2014 Mr X met the SMP, a Dr ‘D’, who apologised to Mr X for the errors the doctor had made and subsequently wrote to the police pension authority to state that in 2011 he had determined that Mr X was 100% disabled in relation to earning capacity.  Dr D said no apportionment should have been applied for either musculoskeletal problems or constitutional psychological factors.

In May 2014 Mr X then wrote to the police pension authority to demand a Regulatory reconsideration process to undo the errors.  His award has been bounced down and up but it has not been backdated for the periods he was unlawfully reduced. The money unlawfully taken from him had not been repaid. This person has been blighted by years of unlawful guff, things written about him, occupation health records appended to with ‘this and that’ of things that should be excluded and so  Mr X wanted to wipe the slate clean.  All those years wasted when he should have been on the correct banding from 2010 – 3 years after the 2007 review as scheduled by the police pension authority.

Now we get into the bizarre world of legal services and dark recess of the minds of those employed in HR departments.  The application of Mr X for a reconsideration was refused on the grounds that the Northern Ireland Police Board (NIPB) viewed that as the Pension Ombudsman had set aside or quashed the 2009 and 2012 decision there was nothing to reconsider and that Mr X should just have another review !

Do you detect a position of attrition here?  A strategy of belligerent attempts to win by wearing down the IOD to the point of collapse.  Delay, obfuscate and confuse rather than just do the right thing.  Even after the stages of the internal dispute resolution procedures, the NIPB repeatedly sought to avoid the opportunity to redeem itself.

Mr X can no more think another review will be performed without error than look out his window and see pink elephants taking to the skies.  The best thing for the NIPB would had been to allow Dr D to perform a reconsideration and to give Mr X the back dated payments he deserves.  But no – it took a third finding by the Pension Ombudsman to force the NIPB to begrudgingly start to do the right thing.

This is what a review can do to a person.  For every Fed Rep or NARPO Rep who thinks their force is kind and benevolent to their IODs, they need to read the case of Mr X.  Any IOD, anywhere, can find themselves caught up in the same unending nightmare.

Let’s not forget the large question mark which hovers over the matter of why Mr X has been reviewed so frequently since 1999.  Is he a criminal who has to attend meetings with his probation officer?  Does someone think he does not deserve his pension? Is he secretly earning a vast salary working for an International conglomerate? No. None of these things. He spends his days bravely trying to deal with his disability. So why is he treated like a criminal or an unworthy pauper petitioner to be hauled in to account for his sinful way of life to the local Watch Committee?

Mr X understandably has no confidence now in any review procedure. Thanks only to his determination and to the Pension Ombudsman he will now have his reconsideration.

After this he should be left alone to live his life in peace.

We sincerely hope that will be the case.

 

Apportionment & Revisiting Causation

Apportionment & Revisiting Causation

Human Resources and SMPs simply are not getting the message. They are ignoring the Regulations, determinations by the Pensions Ombudsman and binding decisions in the High Court. They think they can revisit and amend earlier final decisions on the causes of injury. IODPA is ready and able to fight all such abuses. We speculate on the adverse impact of injury pension maladministration on the morale and efficiency of serving officers

“Can we say, in this case, that the cause of a cause is the relevant cause?” ― Johnny RichThe Human Script

Let’s talk some more about reviews of injury pensions, and the deliberate mischief that SMPs and HR get up to. We believe that injured on duty pensioners are often subjected to an unlawful fresh assessment of their degree of disablement.  It is clear the inexperience of HR departments and SMPs leads some of them into thinking that on review, they can calculate degree of disablement from scratch.  They can’t.  And this is why.

At review, the only task of the SMP is to determine whether there has been any alteration in degree of disablement since the question was last decided. It’s like looking at a clock – it tells you the time now is so many hours, minutes or seconds different from the last time you looked. You don’t tell the current time by calculating from the big bang when the universe was created. The SMP is required to take the previous decision on degree of disablement as a given – as the starting point. He can’t second-guess the why or the how of the duty injury. He can’t try to find fault in the decisions made by the earlier decision-maker. Those decisions are, in law, final and not subject to question.

Some SMP think they can revisit these decisions and believe they are entitled to look again at the cause of the disablement – the ‘causation’ as it is known. Some SMPs forget they are not there to conduct a diagnosis, and are thus forbidden from speculating whether the disabling injury occurred as a result of the execution of the officer’s duty or from some other cause. The High Court has made it clear that causation can not be revisited, but some SMPs think they can ignore the law.

The consequence of such a root and branch departure from the strictures of the Regulations is so dramatic the consequences cannot be emphasised enough.  Once a SMP makes a mistake it condemns the former officer to a long drawn out legal battle to undo something that should never have occurred.  True to form, once a bad decision is made a Police Pension Authority will always blindly defend it to the end – even if they know they are wrong they seem incapable of a climbdown. It can take years to sort out.

So what prevents a SMP who has a casual disdain for the Regulations and case law from going back to medical records from birth and stating an injury was caused, in part, by you falling off your bicycle when you were 7 years old?

I’m not exaggerating.

In a recent case a SMP tried to make out that a former officer who had a mild episode of anxiety when he was just 7 had a ‘pre-existing condition’ and thus his PTSD some thirty years later was not solely cased by on duty incidents. This sneaky little ploy is called ‘apportionment’. It can be used to cut a band four pension down to a band one.

SMPs need to be told in no uncertain terms that they must comply with the law, which includes binding decisions made in the High Court.

In the Court of Appeal in the case of the Metropolitan Police Authority v Laws and the PMAB [2010] EWCA Civ 1099,  it was held that the SMP was not entitled when conducting a review under regulation 37 to re-open clinical judgements as to causation or apportionment made in earlier decisions under the 2006 Regulations.

To put this simply, the question of causation or apportionment can only be considered at the time of the original decisions, when the injury award was granted, or on appeal against the original decisions to a PMAB, or if a reconsideration is made under regulation 32. A SMP cannot, years later, trawl through medical and other records in an attempt to re-think and amend those final decisions.

Once decided, the cause of the injury or any application of apportionment is final and at review the SMP is not able to even remotely go anywhere near those matters.  Even when the SMP would like to have full medical records because they want the ‘full picture’  – whatever that means – they can’t.  It is the equivalent of open prejudice in the sight of the jury or bench. It may be due to the training doctors get – treat the whole person, look for all the causes, check out all the possibilities – but SMPs must put that training to one side when conducting a review. Once a SMP has seen medical records he shouldn’t have seen he can’t conveniently forget them – doctors are not trained to forget medical history however much they claim it won’t influence them.  By accessing records they are not lawfully entitled to it instantly corrupts and prejudices the decision he/she is supposed to exclusively focus on, which is whether there has been any alteration in degree of disablement.

In  the case of R (on the application of Pollard) v The Police Medical Appeal Board and West Yorkshire Police Authority [2009] EWHC 403, Silber J found that Regulation 37 does not enable the police authority to reach a different conclusion on the issues specified in Regulation 30(2)(a), (b) or (c).

But what happens when an SMP does what they aren’t allowed to do?  Inevitably complaints are made to the Pension Ombudsman. Happily, in the vast majority of instances the pensioner wins the case.

Here is a short, but typical, sample of three PO determinations:

1.

PO-828 [SMP] Dr Zubier found that Mr Diamond was “based on his level of functioning as a result of his fibromyalgia, … unfit for all work”. However, because he took the view that Mr Diamond’s Fibromyalgia was not caused by an injury on duty, Dr Zubier apportioned the injury award. This was not the correct approach to take under the Regulations

2.

87657/1 Despite having noted that they should not revisit causation, the PMAB’s ‘Detailed Case Discussion’ included a lengthy discussion on the likely causes for Mr Marsden’s symptoms. The PMAB stated that they found it bizarre that they were not allowed to revisit causation, but said that they accepted that this was required by law. Having discussed likely causation at some length (and made it obvious that they disagreed with the previous decision), the PMAB then failed to ask the question they were required to; namely, whether there had been any substantial alteration in Mr Marsden’s condition since 2006. The PMAB instead moved on to consider whether and what type of roles Mr Marsden might be able to undertake. They had asked NPA to supply details of alternative roles Mr Marsden might be expected to undertake. However, the record of their discussion does not suggest that they asked whether those roles had become accessible to Mr Marsden since the 2006 review, either by changes in his medical condition or changes in the roles themselves. I find, therefore, that the PMAB’s consideration of Mr Marsden’s case was flawed and that this should have been apparent to NPA.

3.

84102/2 It is clear that the SMP based her report on medical evidence which predated the date of the last review, that both the SMP and the PMAB were questioning the validity of the original decision taken by MPA to award Ms Beale an injury benefit. In addition, although the PMAB noted “Ms Beale could work 50% of the time (less than 20 hours per week) in an appropriate environment with necessary adaptations for wheelchair access”, it then failed to ask the question it was required to; namely, whether and what type of roles Ms Beale might be able to undertake and whether those roles had become accessible to Ms Beale since the 2001 review, either by changes in her medical condition or changes in the roles themselves. I find, therefore, that the PMAB’s consideration of Ms Beale’ case was flawed and that this should have been apparent to MPA. I find that it was maladministration for the MPA to reduce Ms Beale’s benefit on the basis of a flawed review.

I hope the reader sees why IODPA needs to exists?  Because of the bungling machinations of HR drones and SMPs, disabled former officers face the lifetime prospect of entanglement with Police Medical Appeal Boards, complaints to the Pension Ombudsman, and even judicial reviews in the High Court. It can be a full time career to have the misfortune of being awarded an IOD.

Perhaps all who join the police should be told, ‘Welcome, and if you are ever injured on duty you’ll get what’s due to you. It won’t be sympathy, assistance, care or concern. You’ll be put on light duties, half pay, messed about, kept in the dark about your rights and then booted out. You will have to fight tooth and nail to get an injury award and then you will be hounded forever with endless unlawful reviews. Expect to spend the rest of your life dealing with the fallout created by incompetent, poorly trained, often downright nasty HR types, and SMPs’.

Do you think that, knowing this is a very real prospect, a fresh recruit would think twice about following a suspect in a foot chase down a dark alley, or confront the violent drunk who is brandishing a fence post, or try to stop a careering stolen vehicle?

Perhaps if they knew the truth they might think its better to stay safe than risk being injured and cast out with an IOD.

Who will watch the watchers?

Who will watch the watchers?

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – Who will watch the watchers?”

 
 —

Police Pension Authorities (PPA) have the administrative power and control of the implementation of the Police Injury Pension Regulations. They are the watchers. But some think they have more important things do, so neglect their duties in respect of the Regulations. In most forces the office of PPA is vested in the sole personage of the Chief Constable. Police injury pensioners would expect each PPA to apply their accumulated wisdom and police experience to the role. Wisdom and experience which are so very obviously lacking when the discretionary powers of a PPA are delegated, with abandonment of oversight, to lower members of staff. A rudderless ship is only a blink away from catastrophe. It is more than a mere conflict of interest if the chief financial officer or a HR manager take over the powers – it is a recipe for a disaster. Even worse should a Police and Crime Commissioner insert herself into policy making and seek to influence how the Regulations should be applied.

Whereas a PPA would normally be trusted to be fair in the application of the Regulations, when careless delegation exists the administration of injury pensions becomes twisted and corrupted; the foundation of the power itself and the authority it invokes is eroded. If a statutory power to oversee the administration of injury pensions is being abused in order to reduce the financial burden of the constabulary, then the post-holder of the power, and the power itself, are both compromised.

If the PPA is not watching, then who is watching the PPA? Who is there ready to step in when a PPA effectively walks off the bridge and lets the cook or cabin boy steer the ship? There is a fundamental flaw in handing police pension powers to the very person who stands to see their budget benefit should the Regulations be abused in order to try to save money. If the watcher is failing – who is there for the governed to turn to?  That is the crux of this post. Can the police do whatever they want, because they are the police?

No is the answer. With great power comes great responsibility (Voltaire).  The watcher is duty bound to administer injury pensions only as dictated by statute; that is the primary raison d’etre of a PPA.

In the stated case R v East Sussex County Council, Ex p Tandy [1998] AC 714, Lord Browne-Wilkinson indicated that to permit the Local Education Authority avoiding performing a statutory duty on the grounds that it prefers to spend the money in other ways would be to downgrade a statutory duty to a discretionary power.

In other words, no matter how the Chief Constable, the Director of Finance, or the Police and Crime Commissioner would rather spend ratepayers’ hard earned contributions, when it comes to police injury pensions the Police Pension Authority has an obligation first, last, and only, to the relevant pension Regulations. A Chief Constable must take off his police hat and don a different one. He must be capable of understanding that the role of PPA is distinct and different from his role as the head of the force.

But what happens if a PPA is obviously failing in its role?  Perhaps the post-holder is keeping the Captain’s seat warm whilst the true PPA is being investigated for serious misconduct allegations, and perhaps the temporary post holder has not got a grasp of what is happening on his watch.  Who can act as the guardian of the guardian and step in to resolve the maladministration and misery inflicted on disabled former officers?

It is for sure that the acting PPA has no will to stand tall and live up to the expectations of the role. What we have seen so far by Avon & Somerset is a text-book response of an inward-looking, self-serving, po-faced, morally bankrupt public organisation.  When they get things wrong the immediate reaction is to cover it up, and if challenged they resort to waffle and bluster. They never apologise, and nobody ever gets punished.

West Yorkshire Police (WYPA) is another fine example of where maladministration has flourished despite the supposedly restraining oversight of the PPA. The Pension Ombudsman (PO) has found (upheld or partly upheld) repeatedly against WYPA in the last 18 months:

Ref:PO-1407 Date:17 Apr 2014

Ref:PO-2799 Date:05 Aug 2014

Ref:PO-2301 Date:20 Mar 2015 *

Ref:PO-2705 Date:30 Mar 2015

Ref:PO-4078 Date:05 June 2015

*although not upheld by the PO this was on a technicality as the appellant had already received compensation and recompense before the decision – WYPA was still found to be guilty of maladministration

What does it take to impeach an organisation which has so many failures?  Is it the case that those retired out on injury awards have to continually ride this roller-coaster of being ‘had over’ by the PPA, turn to the PO to uphold the complaint, wait expectantly for a change in attitude and approach, only for the PPA to do it all again to others?

In a Utopia, the role of PPA would be taken from errant Chief Officers and the task handed to some other, more competent, agency to administer.

As with West Yorkshire so with Avon & Somerset: what does it take to for an external guardian to declare, ‘enough is enough’?

There are complaints pending with the Information Commissioner’s Office. There are complaints heading towards the Pensions Ombudsman. They have been questions raised with Members of Parliament. The Home secretary has been informed, the Federation knows about it, solicitors have been put on notice . . . but still Avon & Somerset pretend that they are righteous. The morals of senior management of Avon and Somerset are tainted by noble cause corruption. They have their righteous eyes on their duty to be prudent with the public purse, but fail to see that does not confer entitlement to abuse the Regulations or disabled former officers. It is sad to reflect that no-one at the insular ivory tower at Portishead thinks that keeping all those former officers in review purgatory for over a year is a bad thing.

Juvenal, an ancient Roman, satirically questioned what happens when guardians, whose job it is to enforce moral behaviour on certain women, get paid in kind to look the other way.

It is an age-old problem, so I will leave it to Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher, who also voiced concerns about the guardians, to remind us that the solution is to properly train the guardians’ souls.