police injury award

Court rules that there are two sides to every story

Court rules that there are two sides to every story

IODPA would like to congratulate David Lock QC and Ron Thompson of Haven Solicitors for another successful judgement that was handed down last week by the High Court in the case of R (Michaelides) v Police Medical Appeal Board [2019] EWHC 1434 (Admin).

We have included the full judgement at the bottom of the article for you to read.

Robin Michaelides moved to Scotland in 2001 from South Africa where he was a police officer, and joined a Scottish force. He did well there, and passed the promotion exam for the rank of Sergeant, before transferring to Merseyside Police.

He was promised by Merseyside that his promotion qualification would be accepted, but that promise was soon broken. Robin also faced numerous incidents of racial abuse and discrimination from his fellow officers in Merseyside. Senior officers did nothing to address the concerns he raised and seem to have instead viewed him as a troublemaker.

Robin was given no assistance in getting up to speed with English law, and was posted to CID without any appropriate training.

His health suffered under the persistent abuse, and eventually in 2015 after several periods of sick leave he was made subject to an Unsatisfactory Attendance Procedure, the stress of which only served to worsen his mental health. Robin was retired from Merseyside by the Chief Constable in August 2015.

His application for an injury award was rejected, and Robin appealed the decision to a Police Medical Appeal Board, where it was again refused.

The matter was successfully challenged, and the decision of the court is that the matter should be remitted back to a (preferably new) PMAB.

 

David Lock QC had the following to say about the case –

The court affirmed (albeit on an obiter basis) the approach of the Court of Appeal in Boskovic to the Evans/Doubtfire point.  That, of course, may or may not remain good law depending on the outcome of the application for permission to appeal in Boskovic to the Supreme Court (which awaits a decision).

However, perhaps more significantly, the claim was successful because the Court affirmed the need for the PMAB to act as a proper fact finding tribunal where there are disputed facts.  Thus a PMAB which fails to act as a proper fact finding tribunal before exercising its medical decision making function will act unlawfully.”

 

This is an important case because there are often two version of events presented to an SMP or a PMAB, one from the officer, and one from the force. What it instructs the medical authorities to do is to consider all the evidence available regardless of the source and give sufficient consideration before dismissing one version or the other.

 

Michaelides

Mark Botham Appears In NARPO News

Mark Botham Appears In NARPO News

The “November 2018 | Issue 96” edition of the monthly NARPO magazine contained this full page article by Mark Botham.

Mark is the Managing Director of Botham Solutions which provides training, a health and safety consultancy and advises on matters such as police pensions. He is an ex Yorkshire Police Federation rep of nineteen years and spent ten as chairman of the county branch. He holds a BA Hons, Post Graduate Diploma in Law, Post Graduate Certificate in Law, Post Diploma in Law and Master of Law and currently works for Haven Solicitors.

It is great to see some sound legal advice being published for all officers that have been injured on duty.

Here is his article –

 

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This article has been reproduced by kind permission of Mark Botham and the National Association of Retired Police Officers.

Mark can be contacted via Haven Solicitors – havensolicitors.co.uk

NARPO can be contacted via their website – www.narpo.org

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.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Blowin’ in the Wind

“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.” ― Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?


…and how many times must they say they must review
Before there’s no savings to be gained?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

This song speaks about humanity, war and peace and other ambiguous questions which people refuse to answer. Bob Dylan claims that the answers are already there.  In his own words:

Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many . . . You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.

We at IODPA have been piecing together some of the pieces of the electronic paper trail left blowing in the wind by police forces, and they tell a story of their true agenda concerning reviews of injury pensions.

Some forces are two-faced.

With their public face, HR managers bang on about how they have a duty to hold reviews. They point to the Regulations in support of this claim. With their hidden, private, yet so revealing face they chatter away about the cost of injury pensions and how reviews might save them money. The hidden face reveals attitudes towards disabled people which are close to being hateful.

So many times have disabled former officers been told about the supposed positive, statutory, power to review an injury award, whenever the fancy takes them, and we have seen how certain police pension authorities relish the task. They, just like Tolstoy’s piggy-backer, claim in the same breath that they are a reluctant agent; that their hands are tied and they have no choice in the matter.

Blow the health and sanity of those caught up in the review roller-coaster.

On every opportunity we’ve argued against this hogwash.  Repeating our assertion that the Regulations intend that a review should be a blue moon event solely dependent on the circumstances of the individual.

And then yet another piece of paper flutters down in front of us.  This time from Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

The latest IOD policy from Cambridgeshire is that as there are no savings to made then the ‘proactive’ review policy of the force will be suspended.

“That in the absence of current national guidance on Injury Award Reviews and the diminishing likelihood of accruing further savings, the current proactive review process be suspended. “

How very interesting.

It seems then, from this that the attitude of those in authority is the review provision within the Regulations is there to allow them to save money. This is about as far away from the true purpose and intent of the Regulations as it is possible to bend one’s thinking. According to Cambs, they review to try to save money, then stop reviewing when it becomes clear that there will be no savings.

Thus the ‘proactive’ review policy was always down to a desire to make financial savings and with the intention to reduce the band of those reviewed.

2.5       The process of carrying out first reviews has generated some savings through the reduction in bandings of allowance for some recipients.  However, experience shows that any further reductions in bandings is less likely as a result of second and further reviews.

Their ‘positive power’ to review evaporates as easily as turning off the tap.  When there are no savings they think there is no point.

Our message is, and has always been, that the true purpose of the review provision within the Regulations is nothing to do with ‘making savings’.  Any attempt to review on this basis is blatantly unlawful.

Cambridgeshire police pension authority has clearly fallen far short of the statutory legal requirements set out in the Regulations.

Cambridgeshire cannot say they inadvertently carried out a lawful duty defectively.  Once those defects become apparent or the authority was made aware of the legal issues, if, those defects go uncorrected and the action continues, it is our understanding from that point onwards those people working for the authority, and/or the authority itself, then commit the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.

Read their latest policy and decide for yourself.
http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/FOI-0871-2016-Injury-Awards-August-2016-FEB.pdf

(To go to page two move your cursor to the bottom left and click the arrow.)

foi-0871-2016-injury-awards-august-2016-feb

 

PMQs. Parliament Recognises the purpose of Injury Awards

PMQs.  Parliament Recognises the purpose of Injury Awards

Let us hope that the recently injured police constable, stabbed in the back several times while attempting to arrest a rape suspect, not only recovers quickly without any long-term physical or psychological after-affects but will not have the misfortune to come across the self-styled Medical Retirement Officer (MRO) of Merseyside Police.

This MRO, a retired Chief Inspector named Peter Owens, has often stabbed medically retired officers in the back by unlawfully reducing or removing their injury awards.

Parliament has long understood the reason why injury awards exist the way they do.  Back in 1978 another injured officer from Liverpool was discussed in the House of Commons.

HoC debate 15 December 1978

Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree):My principal task this afternoon is to consider the plight of one young policeman, which illustrates the problem well. It concerns ex-police constable Turner, who lives in Liverpool and who was living in my constituency.

In 1974, at the age of 25, after six years in the force, he was on duty in Liverpool, standing on the pavement, when he saw a stolen car being driven towards him, pursued by a police vehicle with a blue flashing light. He was about to throw his truncheon through the windscreen of the car when it swerved and drove right at him, mowing him down.

ask the Minister to see established the principle that those who protect the public should not be penalised if injured in the course of duty when such duty involves danger to their own life

 

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summer-skill): A police pension is not reduced on account of any pay received from civilian employment. The combination of Mr. Turner’s salary in his new civilian post and the pension received from the police service meant that Mr. Turner suffered no loss of salary because of his changed circumstances.

And in the present day …

PMQs – 14th September 2016

 If only those who administer injury awards had the same goodwill towards those injured on duty than the above Members of Parliament.

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)
View:
(if it fails to open in google docs, try again.  It will work eventually!
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.

 

 

 

 

“Preposterous” Awards

“Preposterous” Awards

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”― Herman Melville

Were Melville commenting today, he might well have had disabled former officers in mind as the ‘poor’ and the Force Medical Adviser of Avon and Somerset Constabulary as their well-warmed and well-fed critic.  In Moby Dick, Melville frequently uses biblical and mythological allusions.  Like the Biblical Ahab, in Melville’s Ahab (and our well-fed critic) there is a desire for something that he isn’t entitled to and that isn’t good for him to have, to try to get it by foul means, and then to get his comeuppance in the form of an ironic reversal of his own evil deed.

Although not all injured-on-duty pensioners are in the dire straits of penury, they are all poor in respect of the way their injury pensions are administered. The habit of the pensioners is to be in constant bemusement over how those who have a duty to administer injury pensions within the law so easily, and so enthusiastically seek to pervert the meaning and intentions of the Regulations.

As we have repeatedly said on these pages, IODPA is not against reviews of degree of disablement. Chief Constables have a wide discretion on whether or not to conduct a regulation 37 review of degree of disablement. They can consider the matter at such intervals as may be appropriate. However, it is not appropriate to initiate a review as a potential cost saving measure.

Reviews can not be used to undo the finality of the last final decision even if a certain force medical officer considers the award to be “preposterous” (see below). We can only wonder just how he managed to come to that opinion. On what evidence did he base his consideration?

No matter what a FMA might think about any individual’s injury pension payment he surely must be aware that only a substantial alteration to the degree of disablement can permit a revision of the level of pension paid. Is the verdict of “preposterous” informed by a generalised assumption of some deficiency in the process of granting an injury award? The FMA must know that the causation and the substance of the award always remains final and can not be revisited at review.

We are writing here about not just any old FMA, but one Dr David Bulpitt MRCGP FFOM, who is the Force Medical Adviser of Avon and Somerset Constabulary. It is a telling reflection of the rather nasty and lawfully inaccurate attitudes prevalent in some quarters, that Dr Bulpitt appears to have an inflated ego of such magnitude that he wants to rewrite history and convert the decisions of his predecessors, into becoming his decisions.

Dr Bulpitt is not shy about voicing his rather skewed opinions on injury awards.  He is not even a run-of-the-mill force medical adviser.  He has a national platform – as the police representative for the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisers (ALAMA).  Listed as a speaker in past ALAMA conferences for Occupational Health physicians who are “set on delivering the highest quality services and the best standards in patient care in the most effective manner”, you’d have thought his words would always exemplify the motto of ALAMA: “communication, education, consistency and quality of clinical practice of doctors providing Occupational Health Services” .  Unfortunately for Dr Bulpitt, his words may well come back to haunt him.

As Will Rogers put it, “After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.”

In an intemperate email rant to the Police Workforce & Capability Unit at the Home Office, Dr Bulpitt displays his frustration and impuissance.

It seems he might well be vexed over his inheritance of the historical legacy of decisions that he thinks ‘he’ would not have made, conveniently ignoring that such attempts at historical revisionism is forbidden by the Regulations.  An interesting stance, given Dr Bulpitt is not privy to the Zeitgeist and full facts which swayed the decisions of his predecessors.

His ego asks for more.  The finality demanded by the Regulations is an affront to his wishful view of how things should be if he were in charge, and he can’t control his craving to fuel his desire to remove the injury awards of those retired from the force he represents, sacrificing his medical professionalism and independence in the process.

Frustrated by his impotence to alter history, he contacted the Home Office to tell them how hard-done-by he his.

 

[…] I suspect that you might be aware that we have a group of pensioners that are organising a campaign to resist having their pension reviewed.

So blinded by his own peculiar view of the Regulations, Dr Bulpitt actually thinks that a group of disabled former officers, who in their working lives were intent on seeing that the law was upheld, are now campaigning against reviews, per se.  Dr Bulpitt not only has hold of the wrong end of the stick, he has the wrong stick altogether. We guess he is referring to IODPA. In which case, how has he missed the plainly, and oft-repeated, statement of our mission, which is to challenge all aspects of unlawful reviews and maladministration?

IODPA has never sought to frustrate legitimate, lawful review process, but, in Avon and Somerset, and elsewhere, finding a legitimate review is about as difficult as finding an honest, decent and professionally competent FMA or SMP  (difficult but not impossible – they do exist but the good ones tend to avoid the debacles and imbroglios that always shadow bulk review programs).

Dr Bulpitt’s email continues in a manner that, perhaps unintentionally for him, actually answers his question of why pensioners do not want their injury award reviewed by Dr Bulpitt or anyone connected to Dr Bulpitt.

 

The issue is largely one of the Constabularies making in my view because they are on preposterous awards, frequently 100% and have hardly ever been reviewed if at all. One appears  to never had anything wrong with them and another had a certificate stating they did not have a permanent condition but got an injury award anyway.

Who are the ‘they’ that Dr Bulpitt refers to? The group ‘resisting having their pensions reviewed’ are all medically retired former police officers unfortunate enough to be retired from Avon & Somerset and other forces across the country where the review process is clearly being managed contrary to the Regulations.

Among everything else wrong in his email, Dr Bulpitt has the nerve to call the deliberate unlawful actioning of recommendatory Home Office guidance that reduction to 0% of the degree of disablement all former police officers once reaching sixty-five years of age as, ‘acting in good faith’.  

Oh!  That’s OK then – it’s fine to carry out a public duty unlawfully as long as it is done in good faith.  It’s perfectly fine to make an almighty cock-up, so long as it was done in good faith. It is acceptable to drive a coach and horses through the Regulations, bringing huge distress to disabled former officers and their families, so long as it is done in good faith.

This may be arguable in a pursuit of proving misfeasance in public office, an intentional tort rooted in bad faith, but the tone of Bulpitt’s email shows his intent is as far a polar opposite to a ‘good faith’ mistake as is possible.  Dr Bulpitt’s unsolicited use of the term ‘good faith’ clearly shows he has the spectre of misfeasance in his mind; just saying it is all in good faith doesn’t make it so.

As sure as eggs are eggs, Dr Bulpitt wants to globally revise the award downwards of all those retired by Avon & Somerset.  If this isn’t bad-faith then what is?

Do you think Dr Bulpitt paused for a minute and thought, as he typed his email, that it’s no wonder that people don’t want to be unlawfully reduced just because he, as the current force medical officer with only the scantiest knowledge of the circumstances, thinks there is nothing wrong with them and they shouldn’t have the award in the first place?

Or perhaps he feels he has sufficient knowledge. If so, he has been trawling through sensitive personal medical data which he has no right to access. The implication from his remarks amounts to a self-admission that Dr Bulpitt freely rummages around in the personal sensitive medical records of former police officers without consent. If that is the case, it is shocking to say the least.  How else can he justify his generalisation that those retired in the past, ‘have nothing wrong with them’?

The bunker mentality seeps through the words of Dr Bulpitt.

 

Apart from a coordinated campaign of FOI  requests, subject access requests and so on, they have been put in complaints to the GMC about  our SMP. Not too dissimilar from the picture in many forces that I have worked with but this one  is far more venomous and a lot of work has gone into worrying pensioners and frankly trying to smear the OH unit and the SMP by the Pipin group

Hold on there, Doctor. It sounds like you are saying that all complaints, all requests for information, and every attempt by injury on duty pensioners to shine some light into the murky recesses of the shambles that is the administration of their injury pensions, is done to annoy and smear? What utter hogwash! What a frankly outrageous attitude to display by someone who is supposedly trained and skilled in the art of diagnosis. What an example of bias overcoming logic.

Doc, your diagnosis is wrong. YOU, and the other people who have not got a clue about how to properly administer police injury pensions, are the disease. IODPA is the cure. We challenge because we have been attacked. We seek information because none is freely given out. We point out deficiencies because nobody has the wit or the will to remedy them unless backed into a corner.

 It is people such as Dr Bulpitt and Dr Johnson, the SMP used by A&S, who are smearing the Occupational health unit. They are dragging the unit into disrepute by abusing the Regulations.  Uncovering the truth of what is really going on cannot be twisted into smear campaign.  Smear tactics differ from normal discourse or debate in that they do not bear upon the issues or arguments in question.  On this website you will only find disclosure and arguments that always bear upon the focus of unlawful administration of injury awards.

The unguarded admission by Dr Bulpitt is another example in a long line of examples of how far some public officials will go in attempting  to undermine legislation.

Frustrated that Avon & Somerset legal services advise that it is unlawful to reduce an injury pension banding where an IOD pensioner disagrees with the SMP’s report and withdraws consent for it to be disclosed to the police pension authority, Dr Bulpitt states that he is at a ‘crunch point’.

Prevented by the GMC to force the release of a report that a SMP makes on an individual and unable to revise an award without it, his considered reaction is to ask the Home Office to change the law for him to provide immunity for SMPs from oversight by the GMC.

 

I know that others have written about this but surely it is crazy to have the GMC overseeing the work to the SMP and insisting that the pensioner is our patient and that we must put their  interests first?

Their insistence that we have to offer to share our report with the pensioner/applicant first is very difficult and potentially will prevent the review  of pensions if, as my legal department tells me, we cannot alter the pension without that report  and the pension authority cannot insist on it being released. They (the GMC) are adamant that  we must put the pensioner first and if that means not adjusting a pension to the correct level  then so be it.  My concern is also that this is getting so unpleasant for doctors we are getting very limited in our  selection of SMPs. FMAs are now very rarely employed and tend to turnover very quickly.

We cannot alter the pension without that report”.  Rather a conspicuously revealing and graphic sentence.  He uses the accusation of a conspiracy to save money in a dismissive throwaway comment concerning a pensioner who was unlawfully reduced in – cough! – ‘good faith’ three years ago.

 

[redacted] is being investigated over a decision [redacted] took 3 years ago when [redacted] had been instructed to review a pensioner who had reached the age of 65 and drop their award (we now know that is incorrect of course but [redacted] acted in good faith at the time). [redacted] contacted the GMC but has been frustrated by the apparent lack of any understanding of the role. The pensioner had his pension restored at appeal but has now gone on a crusade, accusing [redacted ] of “colluding with the pension authority to save money”.

But “we” (not the independent and supposedly impartial SMP) want to alter the “preposterous” award, he says!

You can make your own mind-up whether Dr Bulpitt is seemingly in cahoots with others.  The use of “we” in the above context goes nowhere in quashing any suspicion that the SMP is not totally his own man and the goal is to alter the pension in all circumstances.  You don’t need to be a clairvoyant to predict the direction of the desired alteration.

The Faculty of Occupation Medicine, of which Dr Bulpitt holds the FFOM post-nominal, has a ‘Competency 4‘ that governs the relationship between the occupational health doctor and the patient.

The absence of the usual therapeutic relationship between patient and doctor does not exempt the doctor from his/her professional duties imposed on all members of the profession..

Dr Bulpitt appears adamant that this should not apply to some members of the public and it seems he thinks that the required doctor-patient relationship is absurd.

 

surely it is crazy to have the GMC overseeing the work to the SMP and insisting that the pensioner is our patient and that we must put their interests first

The role is described as quasi-judicial but I see  little that is “quasi” about it. Surely it is not a doctor-patient relationship as we would understand

They (the GMC) are adamant that we must put the pensioner first and if that means not adjusting a pension to the correct level then so be it.

But it is not just the demands of the GMC, is it?  To be a FMA or a SMP the National Attendance Management Forum demands a prerequisite of membership of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.  It is Dr Bulpitt’s own specialty designated body that demands the same compliance.

Given the Regulations are paramount and the Home Office refuses to release any central guidance in relation to injury awards, Dr Bulpitt continues forlornly, with a sigh of desperation and acknowledgement that some forces refuse to review contrary to the Regulations.

 

Can anything be done about this because we are in danger of the whole thing grinding to a halt?
So far as I know the Met are still not carrying out any reviews and have stated publicly that they  will not be doing so.

The Home Office sensibly skirts over the rant and calmly explains to Dr Bulpitt that the Regulations require a medical authority and the GMC therefore have primacy over the behaviour of any medical professional.

 

Hi David,
Thank you for your email. Whilst I understand your concerns and appreciate your comments it remains that as SMPs do fall within the remit of the GMC. You said that the GMC have been contacted to explain this issue but that the GMC do not seem to be understanding the role. Have any further attempts been made with the GMC to explain the role in further detail?
The Regulations state that the SMPs are being asked for a medical opinion and the fact that they sit under the remit of the GMC is something that cannot just be overridden through amendments to our legislation. It would be interesting to know more about the discussions which have been had with the GMC regarding this issue.
Kind Regards

Dr Bulpitt, and others with similar mindset, appear to have a clear appreciation or understanding of the laws that regulate their conduct in this area, but still they do their utmost to get around them.  When challenged, as we have so often witnessed in instances of other outrageous maladministration by public officials, they consistently fail to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong.

 

We are lucky here because our GMC liaison officer is very understanding and I took the  precaution of warning him that he would start seeing complaints. Thus far the GMC has not felt  any of the complaints against our SMP warranted investigation.  This has not necessarily been the case elsewhere

It is worrisome that Dr Bulpitt has apparently arranged an ‘understanding’ with the local GMC liaison officer.  Does this mean any complaint of wrongdoing is dismissed by the GMC responsible officer, regardless of the strengths and merits of the complaint?

Dr David Bulpitt’s position as Force Medical Officer has, we believe, become untenable with these shockingly offensive comments. He has demonised the entire population of disabled former officers who have injury awards, and his comments show extremely poor judgment and a surprising lack of sensitivity.

It is important that a doctor in a position of trust who is dealing with injured police officers and medically retired former officers enjoys public confidence and this is at risk with his continuing in the important role of Force Medical Officer.

We are so appalled at this insight into the recesses of the mind of Dr Bulpitt, and are so concerned about the bias and discriminatory attitudes which are revealed that we call for Dr Bulpitt to either resign quietly, or if he will not, for him to be dismissed.

If Avon and Somerset wishes to see a return to normalcy in its relationship with injury on duty pensioners and the emergence of good governance of police injury pensions, then this stumbling block named Bulpitt must go.

This is the full email chain.  Keep in mind if this is what Bulpitt sees as a measured email to the Home Office, what is he saying and doing in the privacy of his own office?

http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/38800-Annex.pdf

38800 Annex
[hover the cursor over the page to read all 4 pages or to download pdf]

Insult To Injury and A Strain on the System

Insult To Injury and A Strain on the System

This is an article that appeared in the 16th October 1998 edition of Police Review magazine.

strainonthesystem
Article thumbnail image only, will be too pixelated to read if enlarged. Full transcript below

It is reprinted here with the blessing of its author.  Unfortunately things have not changed. In fact it has become worse.  Welfare units in the UK have been disbanded and scandalously six months plus (often now counted in years) on sick leave with no contact is nowadays par for the course, rather than unusual.

Below the article is a recent ABC documentary.  Although this program was broadcasted in Australia (Insult to Injury, reported by Quentin McDermott and presented by Sarah Ferguson, aired on Monday 1st of August at 8.30pm) exactly the same has happened in the UK for at least the past 20 years as the Police Review article demonstrates.

Strain on the System?

Enough is said in the national press  about the wasted millions through ill- health pensions. I will receive almost £750,OOO in pension before I die, in my opinion, because the Met didn’t want to  spend one year’s worth of salary counselling.  I was medically retired from the service when I had at least 20 years left to complete. The reason for this was that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which was brought on by an attack on me while on duty as a PC.

More disturbing for me was the fact that I wasn’t elderly, I wasn’t lazy or a malingerer, and I wasn’t one of those people that the service was ‘looking for a reason to get rid of’. Far from it — my performance appraisals were always excellent and my superintendent had described me as ‘one of the best operational prospects I have seen’.

Six months before my ill-health retirement, I had taken and passed the sergeants’ promotion exam, I was a control-room trained supervisor, and a police driver who had obtained the best student and driver awards on my course. I had also been accepted for the third stage of the accelerated promotion selection process.

This hardly sounds like the kind of officer that the service would be in a hurry to get rid of — but that is exactly what it did. Following my attendance at an incident very similar to the one where I was attacked a few years previously, I met with a service welfare officer. Within three meetings my career had ended.

Having lost trust in the police welfare system in 1993 when I appealed for help with psychological problem; (in the middle of counselling I was told that I was to be medically retired and all police counselling support was being withdrawn), it was with reluctance that I approached the welfare department again in 1996.

In 1993, I had managed to stay in the service after fighting the decision to retire me. The service’s withdrawal of support came at a particularly difficult time — just as I had told the service’s psychiatrist that my young niece, who was terminally ill, had maybe six months to live.

In 1996, the welfare officer told me there was no support for someone who had the long- term symptoms of PTSD. I was told there were people who could debrief immediately after an incident, but not after the illness had gone untreated for some time, as mine had. The delay in seeking help was due to a lack of awareness of what had caused the symptoms that I was experiencing.

The welfare officer told me she would speak to the chief medical officer and meet me again to tell me what options were available to me. The answer came two weeks later — I was either to stay in the service and see my GP for help or resign. The Met had no counsellors available for my kind of problem, I was told, and all the resources that had existed were no longer available to me. The meeting lasted maybe 10 minutes.

I could not carry on without treatment and so I had no option but to see the chief medical officer regarding a medical retirement.

During September 1996, I went sick. I saw the chief medical officer for an interview which lasted no more than five minutes. I was told to go home and await the decision regarding my medical retirement and whether or not an injury award would be made. After all, PTSD is all in the mind; I didn’t have anything visibly wrong with me. I was then left sitting at home for six months, without once being contacted by any welfare personnel or management from my division. The first time I was contacted was by my chief superintendent who told me that I had been granted a 15 per cent injury award. I had 30 days left to serve before my medical retirement. I appealed this ridiculously low amount. Of course, it took a considerable amount of time, and I remained living on a pension equal to half of what my salary had been. This lasted nine months. Eventually, I had a two-hour interview with a Home Office-appointed consultant psychiatrist, and my injury percentage was increased to 65 per cent. Having seen my GP as recommended by the service welfare, I waited 18 months to be referred via the local hospital’s psychiatric unit to a psychologist. After two consultation sessions, I was told that I needed about 50 sessions of counselling, Or one year’s worth.

The NHS only provide six sessions free of charge; the others would cost me a I am now in a situation whereby I am unable to work, unable to get counselling and have a criminal injuries claim outstanding which is in its fifth year of appeal. It dismays me that having been told by a clinical psychologist that after one year I would be better and able to return to work, the service would not invest that time and money in me. I have been paid the equivalent of my police officer’s wages for not working (actually, slightly more because of the injury percentage) but all the thousands of pounds spent on my training has been wasted. Instead of investing in one year’s salary – and the salary of a psychologist or even private sessions at £60 a week for a year to enable me to do the next 20 years Of service – all my training, knowledge and experience has been thrown away. I am sure I am not the only one.

Insult to Injury

 

Transcript

SARAH FERGUSON: Good evening and welcome to Four Corners.

Tonight the scandalous treatment of police suffering from post traumatic stress after exposure to violence and trauma.

Despite advances in the treatment of PTSD in the military, former policemen say they’ve been abandoned when they were at their most vulnerable.

It’s estimated 1 in 5 police officers either have or are at risk of developing PTSD – making them potentially a danger to themselves and to the public they serve.

In Victoria alone 35 serving policemen and women have committed suicide since 1995, including 4 this year.

In tonight’s program police from three states describe how their claims were treated with suspicion and how they were scrutinized in ways that made them feel like criminals. In some cases this included being secretly filmed by insurance investigators.

Quentin McDermott reports.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT, REPORTER: Every morning Brendon Bullock wakes from his nightly terrors and begins his daily battle to survive.

BRENDON BULLOCK, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: I suffer from intrusive nightmares at night, I suffer from insomnia, I can’t sleep unless I’m medicated.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: At dawn he’s greeted by his loyal companion, Boss, who serves as a reminder of the man he used to be.

BRENDON BULLOCK, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: The Staffordshire bull terrier breed is renowned for being bold, fearless and totally reliable, and much like I once was.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon starts his day with two hundred milligrams of anti-depressants.

This decorated former New South Wales police officer is strong on the outside but shattered on the inside.

BRENDON BULLOCK: From the onset of my career I was exposed to extreme acts of violence, suicides and homicides. These traumatic incidents that I witnessed, I shut away in my subconscious mind.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Now, severely disabled by post traumatic stress disorder, it’s a battle just to get out of the house.Even driving to the shops is a major mental challenge.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I’m very hyper-vigilant. Um I’m constantly aware of my surroundings and who is around me at the time. I am constantly on the lookout for people following me I’m very apprehensive about being in public places. They are environments that I consider myself when in them to be vulnerable. It’s in my nature to um be constantly on the lookout for danger.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It was a very different Brendon Bullock who graduated from Goulburn police academy in 1999.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER:The graduation ceremony at Goulburn way back then was something very special. Um from a, from a dad’s point of view I was really pleased for him and proud of what he’d been able to achieve, and ah get to a point of a goal that he’d had for quite some years prior to that.

BRENDON BULLOCK: For me the job was very satisfying. It gave me an opportunity to help people, to make a difference in someone’s life, er, to investigate crime, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendan was a detective in the Terrorism Investigations Squad and surveilled organised crime figures for the Australian Crime Commission.As a front line officer he had death threats, and was violently assaulted.He attended murders, suicides and horrific traffic accidents.Four years into the job, it started getting to him – but he couldn’t admit it.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I was supposed to be a police officer. I was supposed to be able to deal with trauma, um, process it, and move on.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: So is there a stigma attached to putting your hand up and saying, I need help?

BRENDON BULLOCK : I don’t think the culture of the New South Wales Police Force allows their members to have the confidence to open up to their superiors and disclose to them that they are feeling psychological effects of um, everyday stresses that police go through, yeah. I could perceive this old school of, you know, get through it, get it done. There just didn’t seem to be any debriefing, you know, for these traumatic events that he had to witness and be part of. And um i-in a word he started to break, openly. You know, emotionally on- by our phone call conversations, um he just- It was, it was very rapidly becoming all too much.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER: I could perceive this old school of, you know, get through it, get it done. Th-there just didn’t seem to be any debriefing, you know, for these traumatic events that he had to witness and be part of. And um i-in a word he started to break, openly. You know, em-emotionally on- by our phone call conversations, um he just- It was, it was very rapidly becoming all too much.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: One night in 2011 he went home, and never went back on duty, after being called to a domestic incident at a house in inner-west Sydney.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I arrived at the scene as one of the first response officers there and I observed a male person in the driveway of the residence, which he was covered in blood. And he disclosed to myself and other officers that he had killed his wife. I made my way down the back yard, into a, a flat underneath the house, and it was there that I found a woman who had been eh…hacked to pieces.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon shielded two junior constables from the harrowing scene in the flat below. But he couldn’t protect himself from what he had witnessed.

BRENDON BULLOCK: It was the day that I had to be true to myself and accept that I was unable to process and deal with trauma, um, any longer.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Did he tell you about that incident?

BRUCE BULLOCK: He did.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What did he say?

BRUCE BULLOCK: He just, he just told me the circumstances of how the callout came and what he was required to do. He was- he had two junior constables under his care that evening, and um he, but he [crying] Excuse me.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: For Brendon, the images of the wife mutilated by her husband tipped him over into full-blown mental illness.

JOHN COX, PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER: Brendon Bullock is one of the um worst affected Police Officers I’ve seen um when I first saw him. But then in terms of the impact that the delays and the litigation process took I watched his symptoms become significantly exac- exacerbated.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When Brendon Bullock applied for compensation, it marked the start of a five year battle with insurers operating on behalf of the New South Wales Police Force.

JOHN COX: Police that end up in this situation with PTSD and out of their job um I think have a ah a right to feel that their claims will be handled swiftly but instead they find the opposite. And their claims are delayed, they’re frustrated and they go through quite lengthy process in getting um compensation and insurance claims paid.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Are those delays justified?

JOHN COX: No they’re not justified. In my experience ah the delays ah most often are deliberate delays.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do some police officers simply give up?

JOHN COX: Yes. They do. And that’s why I think this is a deliberate ploy. Even one police officer giving up his claim is a significant saving for an insurance company.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon was covered by the police’s Blue Ribbon insurance which entitles officers who are incapacitated to Total and Permanent Disability benefits.

JOHN COX: These people aren’t fraudulent, these claims aren’t fraudulent, these are the very best of the police that I see go out with PTSD. And can I just say that the pattern that occurs almost exclusively with these cl- with these claimants is that they come in and see me and they spend a significant part of that first conference crying in front of me. And I’m going to suggest to you that fraudulent claimsters would have difficult um or would be extremely good actors to go through that.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Instead of being granted your Blue Ribbon death and disability payment quickly, what occurred?

BRENDON BULLOCK: A lengthy and intrusive investigation into my disability.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The insurers went to extraordinary lengths to check the veracity of Brendon’s claim. Investigators hired by one insurer, MetLife filmed him on at least six occasions, at his home, out shopping and going to the beach with his family.

Brendon’s lawyers wrote to MetLife, saying: “We ask that no surveillance is conducted on our client”, adding: “in 2006 and 2011 our client received death threats… Covert surveillance could exacerbate his condition.”

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Did they stop the surveillance?

BRENDON BULLOCK: No, they didn’t.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As the surveillance continued, Brendon rang a MetLife supervisor, to ask about his claim for a total and permanent disability benefit.

Audio of conversation, Brendon Bullock and Metlife supervisor.

BRENDON BULLOCK: Mate I wanna talk to you about my claim – my TPD claim… Mate, what’s the delay with this TPD claim of mine?

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: He also wanted to see a psychiatric report commissioned by MetLife.

Audio of conversation, Brendon Bullock and Metlife supervisor

BRENDON BULLOCK: You should have a copy of that on file.

METLIFE SUPERVISOR: I believe we do, yes.

BRENDON BULLOCK: Mate why hasn’t that been sent to me, or sent to my legal team?

METLIFE SUPERVISOR: Er because unfortunately, First State Superannuation, which are the owner of the policy, forbids us to send medical reports to the claimant themselves.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What MetLife’s supervisor didn’t reveal was that seven months earlier, the psychiatrist had advised that Brendon’s claim should be accepted.And the psychiatrist warned: “His condition is severe…he remains badly depressed, if not at risk of suicide.”

BRENDON BULLOCK: At that particular time I was in a state of self-destruction. I was drinking heavily, I was heavily medicated. Um I was hyper-vigilant, ah very aware that I was being watched, yet couldn’t understand why this surveillance was continuing.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: One day Brendon snapped, and confronted a private eye who was parked in his street.

Video of encounter between Brendon Bullock and private investigator

BRENDON BULLOCK: How are you doing mate, sitting outside my house?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: This ain’t outside your house. I’m not outside your house.

BRENDON BULLOCK: Mate you’re sitting outside my house; what are you doing?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I’m not sitting outside your house…if you’ve got any problems call the cops. I’m about thirty metres from yours; I don’t know what you’re so rattled about.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I beg your pardon?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I don’t know what you’re so rattled about.

BRENDON BULLOCK: You’ve been sitting in my fucking street for three days mate!

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Yeah?

BRENDON BULLOCK: That’s what I’m fucking rattled about! Who are you working for?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Nothing to do with you. It’s got nothing to do with…

BRENDON BULLOCK: Who are you fucking working for? You’re a fucking idiot mate.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The private investigator has told Four Corners that he was conducting surveillance in Brendon’s street – but not on Brendon. However Four Corners has established that on at least ten occasions after MetLife knew Brendon was suicidal; their investigators continued to surveil him.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do you think all the delays a-and the surveillance and everything exacerbated his condition?

BRUCE BULLOCK: Without a doubt. He, he spiralled downwards after that started to happen, over that period of time, unbelievably rapidly. A-and that was when by phone, the hundreds of hours of phone calls, you know, when he was in a really, really bad way, looking for help- [upset] It was really unfair. And I certainly did, and I’m sure Sandra did as well, we started to have some grave concerns about him.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Nine months after he lodged his disability claim, MetLife told Brendon they wouldn’t pay out, as a new insurer had taken over the policy.

BRENDON BULLOCK: The decision that they came to ah caused me t-to give up all hope. Um their decision to decline my claim ah pushed me to the edge and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon attempted to take his own life in his own backyard at home. His wife and two young daughters found him just in time.

BRENDON BULLOCK: It’s something I live with every single day and regret my actions. And I’ve got to take responsibility for those actions. But what I won’t accept is how the insurance companies drove me to a sense of no hope, no positive outlook. Yeah.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER: They were warned that there was a probability that Brendon would attempt, and they just wanted to sweep it under the carpet. I, I just I can’t, I can’t fathom why anybody would want to treat anybody like that. I-it’s madness!

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do you blame them for what occurred?

BRUCE BULLOCK: Absolutely, one hundred percent. I have no doubt about that at all. Without those years of torture, the surveillance, the lack of support and all the above, Brendon wouldn’t have got to the point that he did. No doubt.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: A common tactic by the police’s insurers is to use surveillance to test an officer’s claim of PTSD.But most surveillance footage reveals nothing about a person’s state of mind.

PROFESSOR SANDY MCFARLANE, University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Can the surveillance exacerbate an Officer’s PTSD?

SANDY MCFARLANE: Oh very much so. I mean one of the things that we know is the triggers in the environment will often drive people’s symptoms and distress. So if um ah a person is being followed it very clearly can make them significantly worse because ah they perceive this threat in their environment that that you know brings back very real things that have happened to them in their career.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Leading psychiatrist SANDY MCFARLANE has assessed hundreds of officers with PTSD.

PROFESSOR SANDY MCFARLANE: As a medical researcher I have to go and get very detailed consents from people ah to collect information about their health and welfare. Ah and I really don’t understand how under the privacy legislation these people can be followed and filmed ah in that way.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When Greg, a New South Wales cop who asked us not to use his surname, made his claim, he too was filmed – shopping at the supermarket, walking to his car with a coffee; drinking another coffee in a restaurant. And here, talking on the phone.

GREG, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: I’ve gone from being a- a high ranking commissioned officer in a police force to basically being t- treated like a criminal. What they say to people is that well we don’t believe you. Um and we’re going to fight you all the way and I mean ultimately I, I think what they want to do is just drag it out as long as they can so you can either give up or go or- or go and kill yourself.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In a 17-year career as a New South Wales cop, Greg was exposed to one horrific event after another.

GREG: The things police see and – and do all police, not just me, um almost on a daily basis are just you know now that I look back on them horrible, horrible things. Um you know people who’ve blown their heads off with shotguns, ah people who’ve jumped under trains, you know you’re picking up body parts, you’re holding you’re holding ah the bodies of- of dead babies that have died and then dealing with the emotions of the family.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The deaths of children hit Greg particularly hard. He found himself taking it out on his own kids.

GREG: I’m pretty overprotective. I’m uh you know w- if one of my kids sort of hurts, hurts themselves um I tend to overreact quite badly. Um…

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What do you mean by that?

GREG: Ah well, you know I, because- because of the emotions are so high an- inside me is that ah it- it normally ends up turning to anger, which sort of the reverse of what it should be. So it doesn’t make for a very happy family life if you know what I mean.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It’s very confronting for them.

GREG: Mm… Oh it’s … m- my- my journey with PTSD has been horrible for them. I have an eight year old son who’s really only known me as an angry person and that- that’s not a really good situation for a family. I mean we’re lucky that we’re s- we still are a family to be honest.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: For Greg, the incident that triggered his spiral into PTSD, was the murder of an indigenous woman, Theresa Binge, in country New South Wales. Is this the spot?

GREG: Yes Quentin.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Her body was found dumped in a culvert.

GREG: I still find it hard. There’s an enormous sense of frustration and some guilt I suppose. She was a 43 year-old woman who was murdered and er, dragged out here in the middle of nowhere, naked, bashed, and displayed, and erm, that’s the long story short. You know, some people may be able to switch off, I don’t know, but um I still think about her and what happened, today.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Thirteen years on, his failure to bring Theresa’s killer to justice still causes Greg intense distress. How did that investigation start?

GREG: So it was 2003 um … just give me a minute. It’s pretty hard to talk about…I just can’t believe I still get so upset about this.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As the horrors of life on the front line multiplied, so too did Greg’s efforts to suppress them.

GREG: You just got on with it, because I mean w-what’s the choice? You can’t have coppers you know in the corner rocking back and forth every time they see a dead body. N- No work would get done. There are things to be done so you push them to the side and you get on with it.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: But his anger – a dangerous symptom of PTSD – was growing. Finally, he snapped.

GREG: It was building, building and building, the anger. Um and not just towards crooks but towards my colleagues. Um and you know, it was it was sort of the case that um you know I, I s- y-you scare yourself. You’re walking around with a firearm on your hip and y-you’re that angry and you’re that wound up and um you don’t sort of think that there’s any out. It’s not a good place to be if you’re a cop with a gun on your hip walking round the streets full of that much anger. It’s just not safe.

KYLIE, GREG’S WIFE

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: He came home and- and he was punching holes in the wall wasn’t he?

KYLIE: Yes. Yeah, it was … it was shocking. It was confronting. A man that I saw as someone who was strong, very capable, very intelligent, very…I was so proud of him brought down to a level of being un- not in control of his emotions. It was it was … upsetting. It was devastating.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After he put his claim in, Greg and his family were followed and filmed.

GREG: To learn that you know for 80 hours some guy in a car with a camera followed me around and took photos of me, followed my wife, took pictures of my kids at the beach, um is absolutely humiliating.

KYLIE: I don’t see how it’s lawful to film children without parents’ express permission When it comes to children, it’s not right and Greg and our family does not deserve to be treated that way.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Greg’s last day on duty was six years ago – but even now, he and Kylie suspect they are still being surveilled in relation to a further claim.

KYLIE: It’s not helping Greg. He’s scared to go out in case he’s being followed. It can happen at any day at any time. Um we’ve recently had a car sitting out the front taking photographs. We’ve got it on we’ve got CCTV footage of it. We have cameras around our house. We have six foot walls to try and keep some privacy but still they persist.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Greg has even closed down his Facebook account, after investigators hired by one insurer – Employers Mutual – started spying on his posts.The investigators captured and kept more than 13,000 items from Greg’s Facebook account. But they insist: “We did not breach privacy legislation in our data collection activity.”

JOHN COX, PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER: The desktop surveillance is something that we saw commence approx 18 months ago and these are ah private investigation companies retained by the insurers and the police force ah to basically ah monitor and collect data on social media about these claimants.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How intrusive is it?

JOHN COX: Extremely intrusive and I must say not only intrusive but in my opinion ah the actions of some of these investigators are illegal.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In what sense?

JOHN COX: Well in the sense that social media is important for many ex-Police. It is the only way that they socialize if you like. Ah and they have high security settings. Now the law says Section 308H that anyone who breaches a security setting on a, a computer system um is committing an offence. In the desktop enquiries I’ve seen that’s occurred. I’m instructed that my clients have had very high security settings and they’ve been breached.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Greg has finally won a settlement for total and permanent disability. But his battle with EML is continuing. He blames the insurers’ tactics for damaging his chances of recovery.

GREG: Here I was trying to get my health back, mental, physical everything, keep my family together and all they were doing was tearing it apart and you know still continues today.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE, University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies: In my view there’s an enormous conflict of interest ah for the insurers. They’re about saving money ah and about profits. And I think that potentially a-at times drives what I would see as being ah unethical behaviour ah and not understanding that they’re actually part of a health and welfare system where a an equal concern needs to be about providing people with the care ah and compensation and income maintenance for people who have genuinely ah been injured ah in the course ah of a public service.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In Victoria psychologist Tony McHugh has helped police and military veterans recover from trauma. Surprisingly, he says, it isn’t war veterans who suffer the greatest psychological damage.

DR TONY MCHUGH DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, UNI OF MELB: Police are the most traumatised group in the community. Um w-we know this ah because of exposure to police stories. We know this from the limited research that is done. Ah over a 20 year career, ah police will seem ah many, many badly injured and deceased people way in excess of what one would normally see in a military career.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: As many people are developing the disorder as have it at the current time. So eh. We’re really talking there about twenty percent of ah the Police Forces around Australia have have got a a group of people who at significant ah risk in terms of their mental health.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: So one in five police officers around Australia either have or could develop PTSD?

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: Yes eh that that would be a, a reasonable ah estimate.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What effect can that have on their ability to do the job?

SANDY MCFARLANE: I think that’s really the critical issue that the public needs to be interested in. Ah there are number of ways that ah an officer ah is I think a risk to themselves and to the community.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In Victoria, the scale of the problem has been painfully exposed by a spate of police suicides. Thirty-five serving officers have taken their own lives since 1995, including four this year alone.

DR TONY MCHUGH, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, UNI OF MELB: What we know is that suicide overlaps enormously with mental health problems and if we have undiagnosed mental health problems in exposed populations like the military or police, then it’s likely that there’s going to be a greater number of suicides…Edit… The systems haven’t done well enough in looking at this and ah the sooner the the number of suicides can be reduced, hopefully to practically zero, the better.

GRAHAM ASHTON, CHIEF COMMISSIONER VICTORIAN POLICE: As with many police I’ve had colleagues that have er at the extreme end of mental health trauma have taken their lives and so I’ve felt that personally and er it’s had an impact on me personally and so it’s something that I’m very much personally committed to as a priority for Victoria Police to get right and improve.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Last year Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton ordered a review into the mental health and wellbeing of officers in Victoria. It concluded that the culture must change from the top down.

GRAHAM ASHTON: It actually had some strong recommendations for us, telling us that we hadn’t been providing the necessary leadership around these issues. Our managers weren’t sufficiently skilled in mental health management. They weren’t skilled enough in terms of knowing what to do to provide adequate support, and weren’t interventionist enough in relation to reaching in, looking for signs of trouble and difficulty with our staff. We recognise it as an issue. The next step is to actually deal with it as an issue.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Rob Bailey is a survivor of the infamous Russell Street bombing in Melbourne thirty years ago; he counsels other officers with PTSD who he believes, the system has failed.

GRAHAM ASHTON: I often have been asked by ah professionals to go and visit police who are in p-poor situations, some of the serving members and some that are ah retired police, ah from professional people and they’re in a bad way. They’re in a bad way and they feel like they’ve been abandoned.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It it’s a terrible waste of talent as well isn’t it?

ROB BAILEY: It is and in dealing with the retired police, it’s really, really sad to see some of these people who headed up major divisions in the Victoria Police that are now retired sitting there drinking a slab of beer and a cask of wine every day.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Glenn Keyte has only just left the Force after a long and distinguished career. When he worked in internal affairs, he helped investigate the suicides of fellow officers. He says the need for change is now urgent.

GLENN KEYTE, RETIRED VICTORIAN POLICEMAN: How about getting them some treatment, rather than knocking them back? Because I’m telling you now, there will be more and more of this happen and how many police members have to resign, retire, suicide, before they actually sit there and go, okay, alright, we’re going to acknowledge this problem? It’s huge and it’s not going to get any better. It’s only going to get worse.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After dealing with a number of police suicides Glenn too developed PTSD. And like many others, he didn’t get the help he needed.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When you went back to Vic Pol and said I have PTSD did they accept that?

GLENN KEYTE: No you’re asking for help, but then when you say, well how do I get it, they say, no. And when you get a refusal it’s like they dismiss, that you’ve got no issue at all. And then when that happens what do you do then?

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: For the psychiatrists who treat police officers like Glenn, early intervention can make the difference between keeping an officer in the job, and throwing him on the scrapheap.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE’S CENTRE FOR TRAUMATIC STRESS STUDIES: All the evidence is that that’s where we need to go and um one of the challenges is that we’re dealing with a culture of people who tend to deny their own welfare ah and ignore their own suffering. I mean often you have to do that in extreme circumstances to function. So they’re not an easy group to get up eh to take up the opportunities for early intervention but I think that requires a very big cultural si- shift and a whole programme of education.

TONY MCHUGH, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, UNI OF MELB: My particular hope is that we will get earlier treatment interventions. Um th-that’s a win for everyone. It’s a win for the Force, it’s a win for the officer and it’s even a win for the Work Cover system. Earlier intervention prevents the growth of ah mental ill health.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How helpful or unhelpful um in all of this are the insurers?

TONY MCHUGH: The insurers have an incredibly important role to play and my my view is that they don’t play it well enough at times. Um there’s data, ah there’s data that talks about the number of cases that are rejected and the number is way too high.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: The trouble is that so often these organisations see this as simply a problem of compensation. This is not just a problem of compensation. It’s about how you know humankind can only tolerate so much reality.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony Crowley joined the South Australian Police Force when he was 16 years old. He devoted his whole working life to the job – and left a broken man.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: Tony’s story is one that’s very typical ah of Police Officers. He he went in enthused, energetic, hoping that he could do some good for the community um and really from a fairly early age ha- was exposed to some pretty horrific situations.

TONY CROWLEY, retired SA policeman: Shotgun blasts to the head, um, people hanging from their sheds, um, people gassing themselves in their cars, people gassing themselves with their families in forests in their cars, murder-suicides.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony himself personifies the police’s failure to deal with mental illness, and what can happen to an officer on duty when early treatment isn’t given, and post traumatic stress disorder goes unchecked.

TONY CROWLEY, RETIRED SA POLICEMAN: My temper wouldn’t just hover around nought to ten, it would go from nought to a hundred at a situation. If things weren’t working at work properly, instead of just complaining or fixing it, I’d break it. I’d put me fist through it.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Sandy McFarlane is Tony’s treating psychiatrist.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: He was a man who had always been very willing to walk forward towards danger but that takes its toll and there comes a point when he gets into those situations he begins to lose control of himself.

News piece: Andrew Mark Norrie was arrested last Friday near Mount Gambier after what police claim was a seven day shooting spree…

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After surviving a gun-fight with a notorious serial killer, Tony was ordered back on duty that same night.

TONY CROWLEY: I took from that that um many things, culture, um man up, um if you’re tired stiff shit and if you think you’re stressed out also stiff shit, you’re going to come to work um and don’t even think about going sick. You know j- just brutal words and brutal attitude. Ah that’s probably the closest to counselling I ever got in my life a-and that that is a fact.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony Crowley experienced an unending series of horrors. As the images piled one on top of another, so too did the symptoms of PTSD – nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, suicidal thoughts – and a growing, dangerous anger.

TONY CROWLEY: If there was a huge fight on I wanted to be there, I wanted to be amongst it. If there was a weapon involved, if there was a gun involved…I don’t know what I was thinking, but I wanted to be the first there, I wanted to be, I wanted to be involved.

SANDY MCFARLANE, University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies: The more an officer becomes traumatised by the job um they become increasingly worried as they approach a dangerous situation. And one of the emotions that can override fear is aggression. So one of the real risks is that Officers who are becoming really increasingly anxious become increasingly aggressive and increasingly impulsive.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: At a meeting one day, Tony lost control and his anger boiled over, when he thought his boss was being rude.

TONY CROWLEY: I snapped, yeah, I did. I remember clenching and shaking and- and um I had thoughts of punching him. I was going to punch him I caught a train and went home. Um and Ann come home from work and I just said eh I think my days are numbered. Um um this happened today at work and and I’m going to hurt and kill someone a-and th- this is the end of my career and I couldn’t see myself coming back out of that ever. Um so th- th- that was my final straw.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony left the Force and lodged an insurance claim – but his troubles didn’t end there. The South Australian police wanted him to return to work, and sent him for an assessment with a psychiatrist they’d hired.

TONY CROWLEY: My temper was at 100 per cent and it embarrasses me to say this . There was a spare chair sitting next to me and I pictured it and I was going through the motions of throwing that chair through the 30th story window of Westpac House and him following it.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony now lives off his police pension and a meagre award of $65,000 to fund his lifelong medication and treatment for PTSD.

TONY CROWLEY: I had so much qualifications and I offered training to so many people. They couldn’t use me for any of those. There’s something wrong with them. It- it’s it’s bad to the core a-and where do you start? I, I don’t know. Recognition I suppose is- is about the start of it.

SANDY MCFARLANE, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE’S CENTRE FOR TRAUMATIC STRESS STUDIES.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It seems like such a waste of human capital to have highly trained officers ending up severely disabled and even suicidal. Would you agree with that?

SANDY MCFARLANE: Absolutely. And ah I think it’s a tragedy that the Government ultimately doesn’t sit back and look at the evidence and see that these are occupations that carry with them a cons- significant risk to the health and welfare of people who voluntarily go into these roles. I think the Governments have actually negated their responsibility to protect people who serve the community um and I think have put the bar f- too high in terms of long term compensation for officers.

GREG, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: When you disengage from the police force, um there’s very, very little dignity. There’s almost none. To the point where you are really treated like a criminal. The very criminal, the very criminals I used to lock up so when they follow me around like a criminal or follow my wife and kids and take photos of them, that’s the stuff I used to do to people who are doing armed robberies. Now you think what have I done to deserve that?

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After four years, Brendon Bullock’s claim for total and permanent disability benefits was finally accepted.

But his life now is a far cry from the day he graduated.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER: I-it’s left a gaping hole in him. Um and he’s really, really sorry that it’s come to this. He misses it.

BRENDON BULLOCK, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: I struggle with it every day. I have lost a career that I loved. I lost a marriage. It’s broken me.

SARAH FERGUSON: Given how much we ask of our police is it too much to expect that we take proper care of them when they need it most?

 

END

Not a Zero-Sum Game

Not a Zero-Sum Game

“There are two kinds of people: eaters and bakers. Eaters think the world is a zero-sum game: what you eat, someone else cannot eat, so they eat as much as they can. Bakers think that the world is not a zero-sum game—they can just bake more and bigger pies. Everyone can eat more. People trust bakers and not eaters.”
Author: Guy Kawasaki

In the world of the SMPs and HR managers the inhabitants are all eaters.  They wrongly think that an injury pension is there to top up to a certain level any earnings achieved by a disabled former officer. They think the pension plate is intended to only hold a certain amount of food. The worst of them think the food on the plate is not the pensioner’s food, but theirs.

They get this idea from some well-past-its-sell-by-date guidance issued by the Home Office. The plank who wrote the unlawful guidance contained in Annex C to HO circular 46/2004 (guidance now disgraced, destroyed, dismantled and withdrawn) is the same chunk of knotty pine who penned this astounding bit of nonsense:

‘How an injury award is calculated
4. An injury award consists of a lump-sum gratuity and also a pension where, as is normally the case, the person’s other relevant income needs to be topped up to the level of his or her minimum income guarantee.’ [Our emphasis]

We have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating, and repeating, until the message gets through. The Regulations do not place a cap on what a disabled former officer might earn, or be thought to be capable of earning. The amount of pension paid has no link whatever with earnings, whether real, speculative or whatever.

SMPs and HR managers, when they bother to actually look in the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006, and at the table in Schedule 3, which sets out the various levels of pension payment, see the phrase, ‘minimum income guarantee’ then think this means that a pensioner is not supposed to earn more outside the police than was earned whilst in the job.

They think that pension payments are like a game, where one player’s gain is always another player’s loss. They see pension payments as a drain on scarce resources.

It is but a short step from these basic misconceptions over the purpose of the police injury pension regulations to want to devise ways to gobble up whatever they can of the money due to disabled former officers.

Trouble is, their actions will come back to bite them. Truly a case of the biter bit. What SMPs and HR managers in some forces are doing is illegal, and dare we say, incredibly illogical and stupid. We don’t mean to be unkind, or descend into name-calling, even though some SMPs and HR managers have been really, really nasty to disabled former police officers. So, we can let them off the ‘stupid’ allegation, but only if their actions are recognised as considered and deliberate – which would of course mean that they had set out to break the law. So, if I were you, dear SMP or HR, I would accept the ‘stupid’ label as being no more than a factual description and implore you do something positive about it. Like gaining a proper, correct, understanding the Regulations.

We here in IODPA think you would benefit from some educating about the scope and purpose of the  Regulations. When we say, ‘benefit’ we genuinely mean that. It is as much in the interest of HR managers and SMPs as it is ours to see police injury pensions administered within the law. Why risk reputation and career on a wrong-headed attacks on police injury pensions? If you would like to see your name featured, not in a nice way, in the transcript of an Administrative Court case, as has happened to the likes of Nicholas Wirz and that scion of the medical profession, Dr Broome, then, go ahead – keep on breaking the Regulations.

In effect the, literally, misguided denizens of some HR departments and the tame SMPs they instruct, administer the Regulations as if a salary of any amount is a ‘deductible benefit‘.

Perhaps this way of thinking may be valid in the world of welfare state benefits. Britain’s postwar political consensus, which guaranteed citizens ‘protection from want’ from cradle to grave colours some people’s attitudes to police injury pensions. But not in an appropriate or acceptable way. An injury pension may be a ‘benefit’ but it is not a means-tested State benefit. It is, quite simply, compensation for injury received whilst on duty, paid in the form of a pension for the life of the individual.

The drafters of the various police injury Regulations recognised that it would be wrong to receive payment twice for duty injury. So, the 2006 Regulations require that an injury pension shall be reduced by the amount of “any” Incapacity Benefit paid until the first day the pensioner is capable of working again (though not as a police officer) after retirement, at which stage the entitlement to Incapacity Benefit would cease.

In late 2008 Incapacity Benefit was withdrawn and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) began. Just as some police pension authorities blatantly disregard the Regulations in most aspects, a sizeable number of forces have continued to illegally deduct this new allowance from injury awards.

This stands as more proof, if any extra was needed, of police pension authorities who are incompetent administrators of injury awards.

ESA should not have been deducted as it is not defined as a ‘relevant benefit’ in Schedule 3 of the Police [Injury Benefit] Regulations 2006. It may well have been an oversight on the part of the Home Office not to have amended the Regulations so as to substitute ESA for incapacity benefit. The Home Office’s mistake, if that is what it was, is no excuse for forces unlawfully deducting a non-specified benefit.

Now, please pay attention, SMPs and HR managers, for this is the bit you need to get your heads around. Just as with ESA , a salary earned by a disabled former officer is obviously not defined as a ‘relevant benefit’.  Unlike ESA, it never will be.  An injury award is not designed as something that replaces something else only in times of need – it guarantees a minimum income whether or not other income is earned.

It is not a temporary security blanket to help only until that person is back upon their feet.

It is an award for life and serves a purpose as compensation for work-related injuries

Please read the Explanatory memorandum to the police (injury benefit) regulations 2006

An injury award also provides vital reassurance for police officers who may often face adverse and dangerous situations in their routine working day. That is the cornerstone of what is admittedly a generous scheme of compensation.

Note to SMPs, HR managers, some Federation and NARPO types: you may think that injury pensioners get a good deal. Please don’t let your jealously cloud your professional judgement, or duty. Think instead, if you will, of facing a lifetime of disablement, of dealing with pain, frustration and rejection, of having your life curtailed in so many ways, and employment opportunities reduced dramatically, and then having to suffer the ignorant and often spiteful attitudes of people who should know better.

Within the police injury pension Regulations there are certain things which are fixed and thus not up for adjustment, or revision or review. They are the final police salary of the medically retired officer, the last, latest, final decision on degree of disablement, and the fact that that only a substantial alteration in degree of disablement allows any revision of the amount of injury pension paid.

The injury pension is always a percentage of that final police salary, artificially fixed in time for perpetuity, but index linked to whatever the cost of living is in a given year based on the Consumer Price Index so to protect against the devaluing nature of inflation.

Disabled former officers are expected to work and earn, if they chose to do so, to a greater or lesser degree. The Regulations are designed to take that into account. That is why there are four bands of disablement. The point that needs to be borne in mind though is that, whatever the band, there is disablement present, and thus some degree of reduction in an individual’s capacity to work and earn.

Admittedly, it is perhaps counter-intuitive to consider that an award of band four does not necessarily mean that person is totally unable to work. Of course, a sizeable proportion of people in band four are totally unable to work, but we can see that the Regulations hope or trust that some amount of work might be achievable. However, it should not be beyond the wit of so-called professionals, paid to administer the Regulations, to understand that being assessed as being in band four, ‘very severe disablement’ actually means that out of their capacity to earn (either potential or realised), at least 76% of the earning capacity equivalent to the last final salary they received as a police officer has been denied them.

If it can be evidenced that an individual former officer has detrimentally lost the capacity to earn more than 24% of what they would be capable of earning as a police officer if they were not injured, then that person is a bona fide band four. It matters not that the individual is currently earning, say £76,000 a year. It is utterly wrong for a SMP, or someone in HR to look at those earnings and to start at zero by comparing that salary with the former police salary. What matters is that this person, without the index injury, could have the potential to earn at at least £100,000 and therefore their earning capacity has been detrimentally lowered by £24,000.

There is a corollary to this which applies to the injury award given no matter what level of the banding.

It is not a zero sum calculation always starting from nought. A SMP working for Merseyside, Nottinghamshire or Avon & Somerset would treat this salary as a deductible benefit and illicitly remove it from the award, thus making the person a band one – ignoring the truth that there has been no change to the person’s medical condition and therefore no difference in the capacity to earn.

Whatever is earned is not to be deducted directly from the award. The salary of a police officer, at the time they were medically retired, is not an accurate gauge of what that person could actually earn. The award, however, makes sure that the former officer is guaranteed a proportion of at least that income at that snapshot in time.

The point is this: the salary of an officer when they are medically retired does not even equal the theoretical maximum earning capacity of that person as a police officer let alone as a productive uninjured member of society.

Likewise the injury award of a medically retired officer who, due to the incapacity of their disablement, is totally unable to work does not fully compensate that person for the loss of all of their earning capacity – it can only compensate for the amount earned when that person was able to serve as a police officer.

It is noted that some individuals, before they were injured, may have continued in a role such as a beat officer or a uniformed response police officer for which they are over-educated, over-qualified or amply experienced purely as they feel it is a vocation, they enjoy thief-taking or in the hopes that they will be able to specialise or to be promoted in the future.  They may have left a high-flying job to pursue their dream of becoming a police officer.

Arguably if a true forensic actuarial compensation was calculated, the exposure of a police force to compensate for someone’s true loss of earning capacity would greatly exceed the amount payable by injury awards. In other words, the injury award is intended to dissuade those injured on duty from suing the police force that medically retired them. This is the truth of the minimum income guarantee purpose of the award and this is why anyone exercising their latent capacity to earn should appeal when a SMP or HR manager does some clever jiggery-pokery calculations involving deducting earnings from former police salary, or national average earnings, or the assumed, speculative earnings potential of the individual in the same manner than ESA is unlawfully deducted.

We at IODPA would like SMPs and HR managers to think about what they have been told by the Home Office, elements with the NAMF, and by the likes of Mr Wirz, and contemplate another short quote from Guy Kawasaki:

‘Defy the crowd. The crowd isn’t always wise. It can also lead you down a path of silliness, sub-optimal choices, and downright destruction.’

 

 

Institutional Oppression

Institutional Oppression

“I have recently been looking into the area of ‘injured on duty’ (IOD) police officer pension enhancements and found that a significant part of my budget is consumed every year on these payments which generate no benefit to the people of Avon & Somerset. ”
– Sue Mountstevens Avon & Somerset PCC 14th August 2013

Over the past week or so, the two recent blog posts have focused on how badly and vindictively those injured on duty are treated compared to other samples of the populace and similar schemes.  This post is the apogee of a trilogy.

Trilogy is such a suitable word as it originates from the Greek word trilogia, meaning a series of three related tragedies performed at Athens at the festival of Dionysus, the god of ritual madness (among other things).

It’s both tragic and madness that police pension authorities administer injury awards with such intermingling of corruption and disdain.

  • Why do some forces think it acceptable  to threaten to remove or suspend awards when such an action is patently unlawful? viz. Merseyside, Avon & Somerset, Northumbria, Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire et al.
  • Why do police pension authorities deliberately pervert, or fundamentally not understand, the Regulations? In every Judicial Review Mr David Lock, Q.C. destroys the barrister used by police forces (usually Mr Timothy Pitt-Payne, Q.C) and always proves that their assertions are wrong.
  • Why do police forces still think it is OK to reduce someones banding purely and unlawfully based on earnings and without any decision by a medical authority?  viz. Merseyside et al.
  • Why bully and bluster to unlawfully scare disabled former officers to disclose medical records from birth in order to unlawfully try to apportion a previous and final decision? viz. Merseyside, Avon & Somerset, Northumbria, Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire et al.
  • Why do they think it permissable for legal services to use their position to dissuade any appeal of an unlawful reduction with the threatened penalty of being liable to pay £6500 costs? viz. Merseyside, Northumbria et al.
  • Why should a retired former officer have to justify the final last decision of their lifetime injury award every two years AND then be subject to spending the next five years of their lives in a never-ending appeal process trying to correct the wrongs that should've never occurred? viz.  All police pension authorities with mass review programs
  • Why are those with IOD awards so despised to be treated in such a dehumanising way? viz.  Most police pension authorities
  • What drives the perverse jealously, that an injury award is something for nothing, that is directed against IODs? viz.  Most police pension authorities

Walk a day in my shoes:

 Not because I want you to feel what it means to be disabled but because I want you to understand how it feels to be excluded

All that is described above can be summed up by a single phrase:

Institutional Oppression.

 

“Institutional Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group   … The barriers are only invisible to those “seemingly” unaffected by it.
The practice of institutionalised oppression is based on the belief in inherent superiority or inferiority. Institutionalised oppression is a matter of result regardless of intent”

Any oppressive system has at its core the idea that one group is somehow better than another, and in some measure has the right to control the other group.  The dominant group considers itself more resilient, harder working, stronger, more capable, more noble, more deserving, more advanced, superior, and so on.

It starts as soon as someone is on long-term sick leave.

As soon as a high-functioning police officer is injured and unable to perform their full-duties then that person becomes a victim of institutional oppression. The dominant group, the senior management team, sees that the injured officer now has the opposite qualities to them, ones now attributed to the lesser group – vulnerable, lazy, weak, incompetent, worthless, less deserving, abnormal, inferior, and so on.

It needs to be said that the institutional oppression described here is narrower, more esoteric and less obviously damaging to society as a whole to when a woman makes two thirds of what a man makes in the same job, or when black young men are disproportionately stopped and searched – this is institutionalised sexism and racism respectively.  But ultimately all are on the same spectrum even with the acknowledgement that  receiving an injury award compared to not receiving any compensation for injuries received is firmly “privileged checked”.

Remember though that this is the police. High ethical standards are demanded from the upholders of the law and the Queen’s peace.  How evidently easily can the senior members turn on it’s supposed own without such behaviour affecting their conscience.  Just in an attempt to improve their financial commitments.

The so-called police “family” is a myth.  Once injured a target is painted on your back.

Why else did Mounstevens think it perfectly acceptable to declare that those injured on duty are of no benefit to society?  The answer is because of the core of institutional oppression that permeates the police service against those who have gone from being fit and high-achieving to being medically retired.

This view is endemic and is sadly not just the opinion of a rogue PCC.

Merseyside and Northumbria scare off those who want to appeal  as they make it clear they will do everything in their power to make sure the appellant will have to pay the PMAB costs.  Not only that but some IODs who had been unlawfully reduced have also been threatened with the prospect of being chased to Judicial Review if they have the ‘audacity’ to win the PMAB.

This creates  a perverse incentive for those disabled former officers, who having had ill-treatment and injustice foisted upon them, to avoid an appeal and acquiesce rather than run the risk of failing to convince the PMAB.

Or how about the selected medical practitioner that has taken it upon himself to bar any serving officer he sees, or the accompanying  federation representative, from taking contemporaneous notes during the ill-health retirement assessment?  Failure to comply ends the application.

Let us also mention another SMP who is guilty of  malice and malfeasance. When reviewing a retired officer this so-called doctor does not permit the spouse to talk AT ALL during the review and puts it as a prior imperative that she demands that the former officer shall not have an accompanying friend who has any knowledge of the Regulations.

The orthodoxy of some Federation representatives is not helping.  There are important exceptions and we are thankful for all those fed reps who still understand the significance of challenging wrong wherever it raises its ugly head.  Nevertheless within the past few months an IOD turned to a single fed rep for help and the response was “its people like you who make it impossible to get an injury award nowadays”.

Was this an isolated instance or an example of a global problem?  Does this fed rep really think that if people like Mounstevens are allowed to carry out their delinquency then all would be good in the land of injury awards?

Not on his life.  This is a battle on two fronts – it is a task of Hercules to prise an injury award from police forces in the current climate and police forces are simultaneously unlawfully trying to reduce their financial burden at the same time by mass review programs.  The correlation between the two fronts are that they are wilfully and menacingly ignoring the requirements of the Regulations.  But correlation does not equal causation.

Imagine if police pension authorities were not held to account in relation to reviews.  In this dystopia only the deluded would think awards would be given out like smarties.  But let us give the misguided fed rep that just for a second.  In this frightening world the injury award would be taken away six months later as there would be nothing to stop the police pension authority from doing whatever devious and unlawful act it wanted to do to protect it’s financial bottom-line.

All these elements of corruption have been occurring behind closed doors for years.

Enough is enough.

Fighting back will be a long, difficult process, and will take more than isolated individuals in silos questioning  whatever injustice is carried out against them. But this is one necessary activity, among many others we all need to try.

This is the start and the  strength of voice will build momentum to change the oppressive culture. Let’s not allow realism to turn to despair, meanwhile.

The stakes are too high.

 

 

This group of police force HR managers, occupational health personnel and the odd force solicitor is supposedly concerned in its quarterly meetings with keeping the police workforce fit and well. The clue is in the name - it is supposed to concentrate on people who work. However, it spends time also considering matters relating to disabled former officers. Quite what legitimates this group's interest in disabled private citizens who are in receipt of a police injury pension is a mystery.

The mystery deepens when it is revealed that the Home Office and representatives of the commercial company which has the contract to run Police Medical Appeal Boards, HML, also regularly appear on the list of delegates. The mystery morphs into something smelling of conspiracy when the delegate list is entirely absent of any representative of any of the people whose lives the NAMF seeks to affect. There is nobody from the Police Federation, nor from NARPO, nor anyone from any disablement charity, mental health association, etc. etc. In other words, the NAMF is a one-sided talking shop. Even at that level it is not properly representative of all police forces, for we note that there are rarely, if ever, delegates present from every area.

Those of us with long memories, recollect that the Home Office claimed that it had conducted what it called a 'survey' of all forces, way back in 2004, prior to finalising its unlawful guidance issued as Annex C to HO circular 46/2004. The HO claimed that their survey showed that it was common practice for forces to review the degree of disablement of injury-on-duty pensioners once they reached what would have been normal force retirement age. This is what the guidance said:

'This Guidance is being issued to help ensure a fairer, more cohesive approach to the payment of injury benefits to ill-health retired officers who have reached the compulsory retirement age with their Force. A recent survey found that practice in this area was diverse. Some forces automatically reduced degree of disablement benefits to the lowest banding when this age had been reached - others continued to pay benefits at the same rate until the death of the Officer concerned.'

The plain truth, revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests, was that there never was any survey. The HO later tried to claim that the bold, unmistakable claim made in its guidance resulted from 'round the table discussions' at meetings of the NAMF. Yet nothing even hinting at such discussions appeared in the minutes and the HO could not produce a single scrap of data nor any record or any other evidence to show quite how it had come to the conclusion that some forces automatically reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age.

Shockingly, further research revealed that absolutely no forces, not a single one out of the 43 in England and Wales, had ever reduced benefits to the lowest band at what would have been normal force retirement age, automatically or otherwise. The Home Office was caught out in a blatant lie. It was a lie intended for one purpose only - its actually intent was to give an air of normalcy to the huge change in practice which the HO wished to bring about.

This astounding act by a Government department tells us what the NAMF was then, and remains now. It's objective in so far as police injury on duty pensions is concerned, is to subvert the law of the land. The law cannot be changed retrospectively, so the inner circle work to find ways to unlawfully manipulate it through influencing gullible HR managers, and by training carefully selected corruptible SMPs how to refuse grant of an injury award and how to conduct reviews which reduce the degree of disablement of retired officers.

And so the machinations of the NAMF continue...