Police Pension Authority

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

Show me the money!

Tom Cruise in ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996)

 

IODPA understands that Chief Constables are having a hard time currently. They have had to reduce their spending and learn how to manage with reduced budgets.

Budget cuts since 2011 up to 2015 amounted to a reduction of 20% in the amount allocated by the Home Office to policing. From 2015 more cuts were imposed.

According to estimates compiled by the National Audit Office, police funding fell from 2010/11 to 2018/19. Overall, funding fell by 19%, taking inflation into account.

This varies a lot locally. That 19% average ranges from an 11% fall in Surrey police force to a 25% fall in Northumbria. This is mainly because some forces, like Northumbria, rely more heavily on government grants and don’t raise as much locally.

With that difficult financial background in mind, we turn our attention how one particular force, Northumbria, chose to deal with the situation by seeking to grab money from the pensions paid to disabled former officers who were forced to retire due to injury received in the execution of their duty.

In June 2015 the force Executive Board was presented with a report written by Jocelin Lawson, Director of Human Resources. Its title was ‘Introduction of Injury Award  Reviews, Regulation 37(1) Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006

Here it is –

Joscelin Lawson report

 

For new readers, we need to explain that a ‘review’ is a term which has come into general use to identify processes taken by a Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’) to ensure the correct level of injury pension continues to be paid.

The report states there is a ‘legal obligation’ for ‘The Force’ to consider at suitable intervals whether there has been an alteration of the pensioner’s degree of disablement, by means of a medical assessment.

However, this statement is unfortunately misleading, despite its apparently factual delivery. It is mistaken.

The above Regulations actually allow not ‘The Force’ but a Police Pension Authority – which is an office vested in the sole personage of the Chief Constable – to use unfettered discretion over whether or when to take action under regulation 37 (1). There is no blanket ‘statutory obligation’ as claimed.

By failing to differentiate between ‘The Force’ and the Police Pension Authority, Ms. Lawson provides a revealing insight. The Chief Constable of Northumbria has allowed his concerns over his budget to influence detrimentally his duties as the Police Pension Authority.

Let’s do what the report fails to do, and show you the actual wording of regulation 37(1):

Reassessment of injury pension

37.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, where an injury pension is payable under these Regulations, the police [pension] authority shall, at such intervals as may be suitable, consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered; and if after such consideration the police authority find that the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has substantially altered, the pension shall be revised accordingly.

Note well – there is no mention of a ‘medical reassessment’ nor of setting up a programme to review each and every injury on duty pension. A PPA is to do no more initially than ‘consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered.’

The regulation does not assist the PPA by defining what form the consideration might take. That is no oversight, as it is apparent the regulation intends that the PPA will use its discretion whilst promoting the scope and purposes of the Regulations as a whole. That does not extend to conducting medical reassessments of all recipients of an injury pension, in the hope of finding substantial alteration.

The very wording of regulation 37(1) indicates unmistakably that any consideration must be an individual undertaking. It is a singular thing, a reaction to a change in circumstances affecting an identified pensioner’s degree of disablement.

What Northumbria forgets, or perhaps chooses to ignore, is that the Regulations (specifically, regulation 30 which is rather too lengthy to reproduce here but which can be viewed via this link only permit the PPA to appoint a duly qualified medical practitioner to determine the extent of any alteration when the PPA is considering revising an individual’s injury pension.

An injury pension cannot be revised unless there has been a substantial alteration. Therefore, Northumbria is utterly out of order in thinking it can task a doctor with conducting ‘medical reassessments’ before it has gone through the required individual consideration of the likelihood of alteration in degree of disablement.

IODPA advises any injury on duty pensioner of Northumbria, or of any other force, to bear this in mind should they be asked to attend a medical interview and/or examination. We can offer sound practical advice on what to do, and what not to do. Advice which comes from the most expert and authoritative legal sources.

Now let’s look at a glaringly obvious logical flaw in the report. Northumbria ceased reviewing in the early part of 2010.  The report places the blame on the Home Office for advising all forces to cease planned reviews, ‘until case law provided clarity on the law.’

So,  from 2010  to date, Northumbria was content to set aside what it now claims is a ‘legal duty’.

Even the most warped legal mind would know that Home Office advice is not law. It does not have to be obeyed. Northumbria could have continued to conduct reviews, and could have done so without falling foul of ‘case law’ if only it followed the Regulations. Moreover, Home Office advice ought not to be such that it tells a PPA to ignore a ‘legal obligation’.

Ms. Lawson’s report to the Executive Board effectively says that Northumbria, having blindly followed what turned out to be unlawful Home Office advice in 2008, and having once more blindly followed Home Office guidance by ceasing reviews in 2010 is now intent on intruding into the lives of its disabled former officers and their families by conducting a mass review of injury pensions.

It seems that Northumbria thinks it can have its cake and eat it. It thinks it can not review, or it can review as it wishes. It is mistaken.

There is a vast and dangerously dark difference between making a decision to review or not to review based on the wrong reasons, and making that decision properly based on only relevant and lawful reasons.

From 2010 to date, there may well have been pensioners who were entitled to have their degree of disablement reviewed, and to have their pension payment revised upwards due to a worsening of their condition. Northumbria was content to ignore them.

We can see from the report why Northumbria ceased reviews. We can see the misleading claim that it now needs to dust off what it thinks is a ‘legal obligation’ and recommence reviews. However, the report reveals the real reason why all injury on duty pensioners, whether elderly, vulnerable, in delicate balance of mental health, whether informed of their legal rights or kept in deep incognizance will now be put through a most distressing and intrusive process.

The reason is money…

 

On reading Ms. Lawson’s report, it very obviously concentrates on the financial aspects of the planned mass review programme.

It also very obviously absent of any serious consideration of the human impact of reviews. The silence speaks loudly of the single-minded purpose of the review programme and dismisses any adverse human impact in a single sentence. Ms. Lawson models her thinking along the lines of the First World War generals who saw soldiers as mere units to be sacrificed for the gain of a few yards of ground.

The report attempts to illustrate various financial outcomes. Needless to say, they all confidently predict savings for the force. In that it is also mistaken.

IODPA believes that Chief Constables, and those who advise them, should take more care to understand the differing, and sometimes conflicting, requirements and duties of the office of Chief Constable and that of Police Pension Authority. The latter is supposed to focus on ensuring injured disabled officers receive the appropriate level of compensation as provided for by the Regulations. That focus should be divorced from any consideration of the financial outcome to the force.

Chief Constables quite properly need to manage their budgets prudently, but they should see injury pension payments as a debt of honour, as ring-fenced, kept entirely separate from their attempts to save money. Instead of turning on people who are generally among the least able to defend themselves, they should be lobbying the Government for direct assistance in meeting their obligations under the police injury benefit regulations.

Where, we ask, are the rehabilitation programmes designed to help injured disabled officers adapt to life outside the force? Where do we see HR providing support and care to the families of injured disabled officers? Where is there any assistance in helping injured disabled pensioners finding work?

It seems to be the case that in Northumbria the Chief Constable – Winton Keenen (pictured) has forgotten entirely about his duty of care towards former officers. We suggest that if he wishes to save money by reducing what is clearly seen by him as the burden of injury pension payments, he would do better to achieve that aim by helping disabled former officers rather than by hounding them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The talk of Essex

The talk of Essex

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth – that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956)

 

Clever Cat, Stupid Cat

Police pension authorities, and the employees who act under their instruction, have consistently demonstrated a remarkable ability to make errors. Over the last few years we in the IODPA have seen some prime examples, and have sadly heard of the damage they’ve caused to disabled former officers and their families.

It is said that if a cat jumps up onto a hot stove, it will never do it again. Well, we can say with a good degree of certainty that some police injury pension scheme managers are nowhere near as clever as cats.

No sooner has one PPA or another had its errors corrected by a judicial review or by the Pensions Ombudsman, than another pops up and repeats the very same errors, or invents completely new ones.

 

A Most Unpleasant Letter

Essex have decided to conduct a programme of reviews of the degree of disablement of some of its disabled former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. So, Mr Kirby, the Head of Governance & Compliance for Essex police pension authority, took on the task of writing to them. Which presents us with the opportunity to dissect his extremely unpleasant and inaccurate letter and point out the errors it contains. The letter can be read in all its full glory here.

 

Letter from Essex call to review

 

Scalpel Please, Nurse.

Let’s make the first incision by reminding ourselves, and Mr Kirby, that the letter is addressed exclusively to disabled people. Some of whom will have physical impairment, some will have mental impairment and some both. We see no signs this appallingly constructed glob of officialese was written by someone who gave any thought to its possible impact on the recipients.

It is not hard to imagine the sense of doom, the panic, the lonely desperation welling up in the minds of those who are made vulnerable by the symptoms of a mental or physical injury when this letter landed on their doormats. We know, because we get told these things, often, and know the mere sight of a letter on police headed notepaper can be enough to destabilise some pensioners. Yet Mr Kirby addresses them all as though they are not only fit and well, but also fully conversant with the intricacies of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.

We understand the main target of the proposed reviews are pensioners in band four. That is the highest degree of disablement, identified in the Regulations as ‘Very serious disablement’. Surely someone gave some thought to the impact of the letter on this group of people?

Before we go further we should assure Mr Kirby that we mean no personal insult to him. He may be a pawn in a larger game, and only doing what he has been commanded to do. He may be understaffed, untrained and unsure. He could be under pressure to produce results. However, he put his name to the letter and must take responsibility for its contents.

 

Apologise and Withdraw

If Mr Kirby has any moral core he will immediately apologise for sending out his letter, and the questionnaire and Appendix which came with it. He will withdraw it all, and sit down with local NARPO, Federation and injury pensioners, to consider very carefully the implications to the force and to the injury pensioners should the PPA continue on the disastrous course his letter has set.

IODPA has no issues with lawfully held reviews but we have to speak out when a PPA announces its intention to act outside the confines of the Regulations. This blog is intended to be as much an encouragement to Essex to realise its wrongheadedness and to think again, as it is a crib sheet for injury on duty pensioners, giving them points to use to challenge and question their police pension authority.

Mr Kirby’s letter contains so many errors and muddled inaccurate information that it is going to take more than one blog to deal with it and the accompanying Appendix and Questionnaire.

Mr Kirby’s letter begins with the phrase,

As you are aware . . .” and mentions the Regulations and something he calls an intention to “. . . review your degree of disablement earnings related capacity.”

We very much doubt pensioners are aware. In our wide experience it would be a rare individual who would know the detail of the Regulations or what a review might involve. If they were to think the letter would explain, in simple easily understandable language, what the PPA is aiming to achieve, they would be disappointed.

 

Fools Rush In

The letter seems to have little or no grasp of the Regulations. Yet it is written with a confident style which is misplaced and in terms which display inadequacies.

There is no mention of a ‘review’ in the Regulations. That word does not appear. ‘Review’ has become generally accepted shorthand, for those who deal with injury pension issues on a daily basis, for the process which is mostly set out in regulation 37 of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.  Police injury on duty pensioners can not be assumed to know what a ‘review’ is. Thus, the first error of the letter is a failure to properly explain what Essex PPA intends.

Nor is there any mention in the Regulations of reviewing something called a ‘degree of disablement earnings related capacity’. Now, this is something which IODPA would very much like to see Mr Kirby attempt to explain. We have no idea what he is referring to and neither will any pensioner, because it is an invented term which has no bearing on the Regulations.

Let’s get things straight. Regulation 37 confers a conditional power of discretion, not a duty, on police pension authorities to do this, in this order:

 

  1. For an individual pensioner, positively identify that a ‘suitable interval’ has passed since the time of the last final decision on degree of disablement.
  2. ‘Consider’ whether the individual pensioner’s degree of disablement has altered.
  3. If a police pension authority has good reason to believe it has altered, so that the pension payment may need revising, up or down, then refer for decision the question of degree of disablement to a ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’.
  4. If the selected medical practitioner decides there has been a substantial alteration, they can determine what the degree of alteration is, by setting the amount of alteration against the established degree of disablement and thus arrive at a new percentage degree of disablement.

Now, of course, there is much, much more to the process that this brief aide-memoire provides. There are many ways a police pension authority can come unstuck. However, to assist Essex and guide them away from the current disastrous approach we should just mention that it is vital that any ‘review’ is an individual process for an individual person. A PPA simply can not decide en bloc to ‘review’ a group of pensioners.

 

A Misplaced Sense Of Duty

We should also mention what Mr Kirby’s letter describes as,

‘. . . a duty as part of good governance to periodically review the degree of earnings capacity of pensioners in receipt of an injury award.’

We will return to ‘good governance’ in the next blog, but we need to deal with ‘duty’ first.  The duty placed on a police pension authority under regulation 37 is it, ‘. . . shall, at such intervals as may be suitable, consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered . . .’

Essex is not the first police pension authority to use a misreading of the Regulations to support a false claim that it has a ‘duty to review’. It is true there is a duty to ‘consider’ at ‘suitable intervals’ whether there is any alteration in degree of disablement, but forces divert from the intention and purpose of regulation 37 when they leap ahead of this simple, restricted, conditional duty.

Mr Kirby’s letter tells us,

‘. . . the process requires the involvement of the pension authority’s selected medical practitioner’ and ‘In order to assess the degree of disablement the selected medical practitioner will need to take account of your skills and qualifications and what kind of employment you could undertake . . .’

Now to be fair to Mr Kirby, it could be that he genuinely, but mistakenly, thinks that the PPA can only properly ‘consider’ matters as per regulation 37 if it gathers in all the information it asks for in the questionnaire and gets their SMP involved in analysing it.

Trouble is, Mr Kirby is asking, sorry, requiring, pensioners to hand over information the PPA has no right to demand. Nor can he involve the SMP until the PPA is in a position to be considering revising an injury pension. As things stood at the time Mr Kirby wrote his letter, the PPA could have no reason at all to think that any pensioner had experienced an alteration in their degree of disablement.

A PPA has no legal authority, or ‘power’ as Mr Kirby would describe it, to require any information from former officers.

IODPA advises any Essex pensioner who has received the above letter, questionnaire and Annex from Mr Kirby not to respond to hand over any information, or give the permissions asked for.

Chief Morgan’s Conundrum

Chief Morgan’s Conundrum

“A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Gareth Morgan, the newly appointed Chief Constable of Staffordshire, who takes up his post on the 19th June, has a problem.

During his tenure as Deputy Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police he will have become well aware that maladministration of police injury pensions leads inevitably to increased costs, litigation and disaffection amongst serving officers. Gareth witnessed how attempts to subvert, twist, or bypass the Regulations governing injury pensions achieved nothing more than the transfer of large amounts of ratepayers’ money into the pockets of a certain Dr Phillip Johnson.

This less than eminent medical practitioner, was paid to carry out reviews on the degree of disablement of former officers who are in receipt of injury pensions. In over three years and forty-six billed days he managed only six for which he was paid £146,000 Avon and Somerset Police Pension Authority (PPA) , which is none other than the single personage of the current Chief Constable, has been forced to make a humiliating u-turn and has announced that the planned mass review programme is abandoned.

The force has no will to attempt any further reviews. So, when Gareth becomes the PPA in Staffordshire, what will he make of that force’s plans to hold a similar unlawful programme of mass reviews? He can’t claim he is not very well aware of the issues, for in November 2013, the College of Policing started a scoping review of forces’ management of Police Medical Appeal Boards (PMAB). Gareth agreed to act as the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the exercise. Tellingly it was then Chief Constable Mike Cunningham of Staffordshire Police, in his capacity as the Workforce Development Business Area Lead, who for reasons unknown, requested this commission.

The College of Policing soon increased the scope of the review from the original issue of PMABs to the management of police officer ill health retirements and injury on duty assessments, as these areas form the basis of any appeal to a PMAB. And the conclusions Morgan’s College-backed enquiry came to? Given pride of place was the startling figure that appeals against the mistakes made by HR managers and SMPs had cost forces some £4.3 million pounds since 2008. The enquiry revealed that the ill health retirement process is in chaos, with poorly trained personnel performing functions they don’t understand, regularly failing police officers.

It is recognised that these processes are complex and expensive to the force and potentially led to a disservice of officers who have been injured in the line of duty.

Morgan also accepts there have been a number of occasions in recent years when the established practice of police forces, supported by the Home Office, in interpreting the meaning of the 2006 Regulations, has been found to be inconsistent with the true wording of the Regulations!

6 At the time of writing, very few forces are currently engaged in performing
reviews of previous IoD decisions, many having not done so since the Home
Office correspondence in 10 March 2010 following critical case law. The issues
relating to the appropriateness of conducting reviews notwithstanding, the
decision not to review has resulted in a significant degradation of the skill level of those staff members who had previous experience of this work. Many of whom, as a result of ongoing financial cuts to relevant departments, are no longer working for the police service.

The ‘Home Office correspondence’ referred to was a letter from the HO advising that all forces cease reviews, pending a seminal judicial review upcoming in the Administrative Court. That case concerned a former Met officer, Belinda Laws. She won her case. The reviews then being conducted in some forces were unlawful as they were based on the infamous guidance issued by the Home Office in Annex C to its circular 46/2004.

The Home Office later suffered a hammer blow when it had to concede the guidance was unlawful and withdrew it. The Home Office gave a clear indication in a later judicial review case that it was unlikely to want to issue any revised guidance, or indeed, any further guidance whatever concerning injury awards and ill health retirement processes.

Peter Spreadbury, then Head of the Police Pensions and Retirement Policy Section within the Home Office gave a witness statement in the case of Simpson held at Leeds High Court in February 2012. He stated,

‘Should it appear that repeated legal challenges and uncertainty are likely to continue in this area, one possible option is the withdrawal of the relevant guidance and the abandonment of any attempt to give central guidance on the topic.’

Well, legal challenges have continued apace, and uncertainty within HR departments has increased, and the Home Office has withdraw its guidance, and it remains sensibly silent on all matters concerning injury pensions. The ball is firmly in the court of each PPA. They can expect no overt help from the Home Office, though we know that august Department of State sends a representative to meetings of the National Welfare and Engagement Forum. We believe this is more to keep an eye on the rampant idiocy which is displayed there than to try to advise more unlawful attempts to subvert the Regulations.

It is reasonable to assume then that Gareth Morgan is more acquainted than most Chief Officers with the institutional failures of HR departments to properly administer the police injury benefit Regulations.

Gareth also knows first hand of the most vile abuse foisted on vulnerable disabled officers, for it was in Avon and Somerset that the now deceased Dr Reginald Bunting was allowed free rein to practice his sexual perversions on officers and former officers who he was called upon to examine.

Speaking about Operation Hay which investigated the historical abuse he went on record as saying:

“Anyone requiring a police medical examination held on police premises by a police doctor should have had an expectation of being safe. It is clear that the conduct of some of these medical examinations fell well below this standard.~Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan

Wishful thinking on Gareth’s part, for the day after Avon & Somerset decided enough was enough in their abuse of those injured on duty, the Bristol Post reported that more victims have come forward:

Investigation into pervert doctor continue as more victims come forward

The police investigation into a pervert Bristol doctor is being continued as more potential victims have come forward. Dr Reginald Bunting was said to have been ‘inappropriate’ towards 52 police recruits and staff while he worked for Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Investigations into the doctor’s behaviour and complaints made about him ended this year after a two-year probe.

So, Gareth Morgan’s problem as he takes up his new post is this: he now has a choice to make. Does his follow the lead of his former boss in Avon and Somerset, Chief Constable Andy Marsh and halt the reviews, or does he continue to zealously pursue Staffordshire’s review program as if nothing has happened?

Will we see Morgan fall back on repeating the tired and empty mantra in respect of reviews where various administrators have falsely claimed the Regulations say they “shall“ conduct reviews, or that they are “obliged to review“ as they have “a positive duty” to review? Will Morgan chose to ignore the looming disaster that Staffordshire’s proposed mass review programme will bring? Will he chose to ignore all the evidence which proves most, if not all, forces are utterly incapable of administering police injury pensions within the law?

To add to his problem he has to take ownership of the ill-judged and illegal Staffordshire 2008 “agreement“ which favoured certain IOD pensioners at the expense of others. He will have a tangled mess to attempt unravelling now that Staffordshire’s IOD pensioners have realised the agreement was not worth the paper it was written on. Staffordshire will have to deal with that before it could even contemplate holding any reviews – unless of course Gareth has the stomach for a costly round of appeals and trips to the Administrative Court.

We hope that new Chief Constable Gareth Morgan will look back on his time with Avon and Somerset and reflect on the sour sans-apology June 12th letter to all IOD pensioners from Julian Kern on behalf of Avon & Somerset Police Pension Authority cancelling what he called the “automatic reviews“.

Of course the term “automatic review” is an euphemism for holding reviews only for the purpose of discovering whether there has been substantial alteration in degree of disablement, without any pre-consideration as to whether the degree of the pensioners disablement has altered. This, as regular readers of these blogs will know, is not a lawful process. A review held without first deciding there has been a suitable interval since the previous decision on degree of disablement is unlawful. A review held without any individual consideration of individual circumstances is unlawful. A review held with a view to saving money is unlawful.

The Regulations prohibit anything which might be called an ‘automatic review’. The fact that Kern used this phrase, in what we sincerely hope will be the last letter he is allowed to pen for Avon and Somerset Police Pension Authority, sums up all we need to know about the sheer incompetence of the man. He knows nothing about the Regulations.

We will touch in later blogs about Kern’s reference to suspension of reviews pending future legislation or Home Office guidance but suffice to say IODPA is confident there will be no retrospective legislation, nor will the Home Office ever offer any more central guidance.

Avon and Somerset’s climb-down suspension of all reviews sends a strong signal to Staffordshire, and the other few forces which are still mistakenly in thrall to the idea that reviews can save them money. It also tells anyone who cares to listen that the hugely ignorant and dangerous guidance issued by Nicholas Wirz via the the National Wellbeing and Engagement Forum is a poisoned chalice.

IODPA wishes Mr Morgan well in his new role in Staffordshire. We hope that once he is his own boss, free of the shackles of being merely the number two he was in Avon and Somerset, that he will make some sensible decisions and not only halt the proposed mass review programme, but set about clearing up the historic mess that is the administration of police injury pensions in that area.

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...