regulation 32

A Tale Of Two Forces

A Tale Of Two Forces

‘In my judgement, Mr Lock’s submission is correct . . . ‘

— Her Honour Judge Belcher

We have two judicial review cases to report on. One resulted in a decision in favour of the pensioner  and the other did not.

Both cases will have considerable effect on the future behaviour of Police Pension Authorities (‘PPA’) across the country. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that two or three PPAs are likely to continue attempts to thwart the intentions and purposes of The Police Injury Benefit Regulations 2006, whilst the vast majority remain rightly very cautious about breaking the law. IODPA hopes the lessons learned from these two recent judicial reviews will result in positive improvements in the administration of police injury awards.

For legal reasons, IODPA cannot comment on the merits of the case which was lost, but we can talk about the principles involved, as they apply universally.

In a hearing in the Administrative Court, the Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police was the respondent to an action taken by a former police officer, Colene Boskovic. The claimant argued that a decision by the PPA to refuse agreement to arrange a regulation 32(3) or 32(3) reconsideration was,

 

. . . unlawful on its face for inadequate reasons and/or a failure to address the primary purpose of a Regulation  32(2) reconsideration.

 

The case report of Boskovic is available for scrutiny here.

Boskovic-V-Chief-Constable-Staffordshire-Police

 

We should explain that the Regulations make provision for any decision taken by a police pension authority to be reconsidered, provided that both parties, the individual concerned and the police pension authority, agree to a reconsideration process being held.

The concept of reconsideration is a sound one, in that it allows errors of law or fact to be readily and inexpensively revisited and for corrective action to be taken. The concept is a necessary one, for awareness there may have been errors might not surface for some time after a flawed decision was made. The concept is a positive one for disabled pensioners may be unable, for various compelling reasons, to act within the strict time limits which control when a formal appeal to a police medical appeal board must be made.

For many years it seems the reconsideration provision was little used. This may have been because pensioners, and those who represent them, were unaware decisions could be reconsidered, or were unsure how to approach this provision. Another factor undoubtedly has been the all too common practice of forces failing to properly inform officers and former officers of their rights.

We have the 2012 cases of Haworth v. Northumbria Police  Authority and Crudace v. Northumbria Police Authority to thank for illuminating the detail of regulations 32(2) and 32(3) – especially in informing all concerned there is no regulatory time limit on holding a reconsideration. Since 2012 pensioners have turned to the reconsideration provision to correct old errors, much to the dismay of some police pension authorities.

From all the evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, it is easy to conclude many errors remain undiscovered and uncorrected. Putting matters right would be an expensive business impacting on the hard-pressed finances of some forces. It comes as no surprise then that Staffordshire would seek to close off this opportunity.

As with Haworth and Crudace, Colene Boskovic sought agreement from her police pension authority to arrange a reconsideration of a decision. In her case, the decision was that she did not qualify for grant of an injury award. The court heard argument from the respondent which essentially presented the view that a reconsideration could not be held ‘fairly’, due in part to the passage of time – being some 14 years – since the disputed decision was made, and also the unavailability of the original decision-making SMP.

The Chief Constable explained her refusal thus:

I do not agree to a further reference to a medical authority for reconsideration of the original refusal of an injury award. This is because I believe the request is frivolous and vexatious: the delay of 14 years from the original assessment is such that I conclude no reconsideration is possible. Dr. Gandham, the selected medical practitioner who made the original decision to not make an injury award is no longer licensed to practice in the United Kingdom, and neither is Dr. Srinivasan upon whose report Dr. Gandham relied. I do not believe the underlying merits of having the case reconsidered have sufficient strength to justify it

 

The court’s decision in this case appears to bring new elements for a PPA to consider when deciding whether or not to agree to holding a reconsideration. All we can say for now, is that each case is different, and is determined on the individual circumstances and the merit of the arguments presented. Pensioners, and serving officers seeking grant of an injury award need not be disheartened by the outcome in this case. There will be other cases and IODPA is confident that understanding of regulation 32(2) and 32(3) will continue to expand and clarify in favour of disabled individuals.

We can turn now to the more uplifting result of the case brought by our member Angie McLoughlin.

The case report has earlier been published on this web site – https://iodpa.org/2019/04/10/injured-pensioner-wins-court-case-over-back-payment-of-pension/

Angie appealed by way of judicial review the decision by the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police to refuse to fully backdate payment of an increased injury pension award.

Angie was severely injured by a burglary suspect and was retired on an injury pension in 1983, which was set at 25% disability. This is categorised in the Regulations as ‘slight disablement’ and attracts the lowest possible level of pension payment. It also meant that Angie was due much less in the way of the one-off gratuity. With only six years service, she qualified for a gratuity of 30% of average yearly pensionable pay, whereas if she had been assessed as very severely disabled she would have been due for an 85% gratuity and a much bigger pension.

Angie became embroiled in lengthy dispute with West Yorkshire Police. There was good reason to suspect that some records had been altered, so as to change what was 75% to 25%.  The issue of fraud has still not been brought to a conclusion. We don’t want to in any way give the appearance of glossing over the huge problems Angie faced in attempting to secure justice, but for reasons of space and focus, we need to leap ahead to 2004 and then to 2019, being the dates of pivotal events.

In 2004, some 21 years after Angie retired, a review was finally held regarding her degree of disablement, though the decision on that review was not produced until 2007. Meanwhile, Angie continued to be paid the lowest possible injury pension, despite the fact she was totally incapable of engaging in paid employment. The 2004 review led on, after much delay and complications, to Angie appealing to a police medical appeal board in 2009. The board assessed her degree of disablement as 88%, thus placing her in the highest of the four bands set out in the Regulations and confirming she suffered ‘very serious disablement.’

In August 2017, the police pension authority – none other than the Chief Constable – agreed to arranging a regulation 32 reconsideration of the original decision that had set her degree of disablement at 25%. Dr Iqbal was tasked with making the reconsideration as the original decision maker was no longer available.

Dr Iqbal concluded in April 2018,

In my opinion, based on the assessment carried out today as well as the evidence to hand, it is my opinion that at the time of the original decision in January 1984, a band 4 degree of disablement was appropriate.

 

The PPA continued to reject its liability to make complete restitution, with arguments over the period to be covered, so the matter was taken to judicial review in 2019, with the issues summarised by the court as,

The Appellant’s case is that Dr Iqbal’s fresh report, being by way of a re- consideration under Regulation 32(2), replaces Dr Anderson’s report of January 1984, and, as a consequence, the payment obligations owed by the Chief Constable are substituted for the payment obligations owing by the Chief Constable arising as a consequence of the previous report.  In other words, the Appellant asserts that the Regulations mandate back payments to cover the period from December 1983 to 2007.  The Respondent’s case is that the payment obligation is affected only from the date of Dr Iqbal’s report, that is from April 2018, and that the Appellant is not entitled to any backdated payments.

 

Angie won her case, and West Yorkshire Police became obliged to pay her all monies claimed, plus interest.

There are themes common to both cases, not least the effects of the passage of time on rights, liabilities and the practicality of securing a fair reconsideration through the application of regulation 32. These are weighty issues and it is likely they will figure again in other cases. IODPA would prefer to focus for now on highlighting and praising the immense courage and determination displayed by Angie and Colene. Pensioners and serving officers across the country owe them both a debt of gratitude. The history of the long-running ‘injury pension war’ as it has been dubbed, shows that it is only when individuals bring matters to court will errant police pension authorities mend their ways.

In the Boskovic case, we see the deputy head of the force’s legal services writing,

As a keeper of the public purse, it is right that the Chief Constable (as the Police Pensions Authority) considers her position carefully.

 

This implies the PPA was concerned about the costs which might result should they lose the case, and thus be liable, through reconsiderations, to make good injury pensions underpaid through years of maladministration and flawed decisions.

However, the judge took the view that it was appropriate for a PPA to take into account the cost of the process of reconsideration when deciding whether to agree to one or not. We can only but wonder at the logic of a PPA balking at spending the few hundreds of pounds a reconsideration would cost, yet happily spend many thousands of pounds of public money on contesting matters brought to judicial review. In the Boskovic case, the PPA may well be feeling the expense was justified, but is sure to find that any financial advantage apparently gained will be short lived.

The lesson from these two cases is that neither of them would need to have been brought if only the authorities involved had acted with decency and respect to its injured officers.

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

“Round One” to Staffordshire Police

“Round One” to Staffordshire Police

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Mr Kerr has refused the application on three grounds.

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

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

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

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

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

Avenues of Appeal

Avenues of Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reference to medical authority

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Justice King in the Haworth judicial review stated that [Regulation 32 is a]

‘. . . free standing mechanism as part of the system of checks and balances in the regulations to ensure that the pension award, either by way of an initial award or on a review to the former police officer by either the SMP or PMAB, has been determined in accordance with the regulations and that the retired officer is being paid the sum to which he is entitled under the regulations.’

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

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

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

PMAB

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

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

Crown Court

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

Employment Tribunals

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

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

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

Pension Ombudsman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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

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

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

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

Equality and Human Rights Commission & Equality Advisory and Support Service

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

Judicial review

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Regulation 32

Regulation 32

Everyone in receipt of an Injury on Duty award mostly understands the implications of the discretionary power to review, namely regulation 37.   As described previously on other posts it is frequently an abused power with reviews instigated by the police pension authority, on their whim, so that they can fulfil financial constraint reduction targets.   Rarely does a pensioner with a substantial deterioration in their medical condition request a review themselves – Avon & Somerset has only received 2 self-referred requests for a regulation 37 review in the past 10 years. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/pensions_6

The same story is repeated nationally. Too many IODs are living their lives with degenerative conditions brought on by their qualifying injury received in the execution of their duty without wanting to resurrect the pain of dealing with their former force’s bureaucracy.  So they continue on, living on an award banding lower than what they should be entitled to.  The point I’m clumsily trying to make is that if no IOD recipient thinks of requesting a review, it is not surprising to hear that no one knows that there is a power to ask for a reconsideration.

Regulation 32 became more widely known as a direct result of the the unlawfulness of home office circular 46/2004.  Between 2003 and 2009 hundreds of reviews were used to reduce former police officers to the lowest band due to the fact that they had reached the age of 65.  Despite the hardship this caused only a few had the mental strength to appeal and it wasn’t until the first Judicial review in 2009 that the light was shined on the illegality of what had happened.  By then those affected had missed the strict deadlines to lodge appeals.

The case of Haworth explains this clearly.  This was Northumbria again on their mission to ruin lives, guided in their quest by their legal advisor Mr Wirz.  Susan Haworth was retired on an injury on duty award and medical pension in 1995.  In 2005 she was reviewed and had her injury award reduced.  The decision was taken to the police medical appeals board (hearing in 2006) whereupon the board further reduced the award to the lowest band, a band 1.  Both the SMP in 2005 and the board in 2006 revisited causation and unlawfully attempted to claim that Susan had pre-existing conditions and then applied apportionment.  This was not permissible and was outside the task which they had to undertake under regulation 37.  Susan did not take the fight further (she was unaware she could challenge it at the time) until she realised several years later, after Laws V PMAB in 2009, that the decision made against her was unjust.  So in 2010 she sought advice and submitted a request for the 2006 decision to be reconsidered under regulation 32.

Here is an excerpt of the letter from her solicitor requesting the reconsideration:

‘It is against the background of the decisions of the SMP and the PMAB that Mrs Haworth is seeking a reconsideration under Regulation 32(2) of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. The detailed reasons for seeking this review (sic) are set out below, however in essence the decisions of both the SMP and the PMAB were not made in accordance with the relevant regulations , as it is clear that the SMP…..revisited causation as to the original final decision made at the time of Mrs Haworth’s ill heath retirement in May 1995, and the,PMAB ….then proceeded to apply an apportionment, again to a final decision made in May 1995. Both of these decisions are therefore unlawful, and not made accordance with the Injury Benefit Regulations.”

Typically and acting to type, Northumbria refused the reconsideration.  The refusal was taken to judicial review and Haworth won the right to have a her case heard under regulation 32.

The importance of Haworth is not only that it brought to light that a police pension authority needs a robust reason to refuse a request for a reconsideration – more than Northumbria’s claim of “It is important that final decisions, once taken, remain just that” and that Mr Wirz’s submission to the court that ‘re-opening of old-cases will affect the authorities budget’ is irrelevant to the matter at hand .  But also that there is no time limit to restrict the use of regulation 32:

I cannot accept that it is lawfully open to a police authority to refuse a retired officer its consent to refer a final decision back to a medical authority for reconsideration under regulation 32(2) simply on the grounds of delay, even inordinate delay, in other words passage of time since the decision was made, without any consideration of the underlying merits of the matters which the former officer seeks to pursue on such a consideration”.

The power to demand a reconsideration is therefore unfettered by time and is always available as a viable option.

So what advantage does a reconsideration (reg32) have over a review (reg37)?   If a review (or the original decision that the review is based upon) is using the wrong diagnosis, if there is undue apportionment, if causation is incorrect, if a previous final decision was contrary to regulations; a further review can not fix the fault.  That fault will remain now and in future reviews for eternity – the comparator always is the last final decision whether or not that final decision was wrong. A review is blind to the legitimacy of the last decision.   So the only way to wipe the slate clean and have future reviews looking at the correct factors is to have the previous decision(s) quashed and regulation 32 provides a mechanism for this to happen.

Mr R has learning disabilities and a mental health condition. He went overseas on holiday to stay with some family friends. His parents had intended to travel with him but were unable to do so because of his father’s ill health. This was the first time that Mr R had travelled abroad alone.
On his return he was stopped at his local airport by two trainee customs officers because he was carrying a large amount of tobacco. He was then interviewed about his trip abroad, how it had been funded, and the tobacco. Contrary to the UK Border Agency’s own guidance, the customs officers did not check at the start of the interview whether Mr R was fit and well, or whether he had any medical condition they needed to be aware of. Nor did they ask him to read and sign the notes of the interview. If they had done, they would have discovered that Mr R could not read or write. The officers strip searched Mr R - at one point leaving him naked.
One of the reasons given for the strip-search was that Mr R appeared ‘nervous’ and ‘evasive’ when questioned. Although Mr R had referred to his disabilities and one of the officers had written ‘Mental health problems, disability’ in his notebook, the officers simply continued with the interview and the search. No drugs were found. Mr R was eventually allowed to leave, but the tobacco he had been carrying was seized. My investigation found that the UK Border Agency had not had regard to Mr R’s disability rights in the way that it had carried out its functions. As soon as Mr R referred to his disabilities, the customs officers should have stopped the interview and re-arranged it so that an appropriate adult could be present. Instead they had pressed on regardless, they had failed to follow the Agency’s own interviewing protocols, which might have helped them to identify Mr R’s disabilities and deal with him appropriately as a vulnerable adult. An appropriate adult should have been able to explain that Mr R’s difficulties in answering questions were due to his learning disabilities and not evidence of evasive behaviour. Not only was it unlikely that the encounter would have progressed so far as a strip search, but Mr R would have had the support and protection he was entitled to in what for him was a terrifying situation. Not surprisingly, he never wanted to go near an airport again. We upheld the complaint. The UK Border Agency apologised to Mr R and paid him £5,000 compensation for the distress, humiliation and anxiety they had caused him. In an attempt at restorative justice we asked the Agency to explore with Mr R and his mother what they might do to enable Mr R to feel comfortable using his local airport in future. The Agency also agreed to review the disability awareness training provided to their customs officers, with a particular emphasis on identifying non-visible disabilities such as learning disabilities and mental health conditions.