A Christmas Carol (Wood)

A Christmas Carol (Wood)

Once upon a time – of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve – old Carol Wood sat busy in her counting house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather. The door was open that she might keep her eye upon her clerk, Jones, who in a dismal little cell was randomly making up degrees of disablement figures percentages and then, as soon as she had an arbitrary number in her head, erasing the actual number the medical practitioner had already decided upon and replacing it with her own. Wood had a large fire of smouldering personnel files, medical records of retired officers and ignored Freedom of Information requests. The clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like a single coal.

“A merry Christmas, Ms Wood! God save you!” cried a cheerful, dim but rather posh voice. It belonged to mad Sussie who owned the bakery shop next door. “Bah!” said Wood. “Humbug!”

Mad Sussie had so heated herself with spouting hot air in her latest press conference  that she was all in a glow.

“Out upon Merry Christmas!” snarled Wood. “What’s Christmas time but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for trying to unlawfully reduce every IOD just to find every item in ’em presented dead against you.”

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time,” returned the old and decrepit mad Sussie. “The only time I know of when men and women  like us think of people below them as no benefit to the citizens of our good borough. If they really were fellow-passengers to reduce their injury pensions and force them to the grave or illness, and not another race of creatures to be treated with dignity and abiding by past promises.”

“I say of Christmas, God bless it!” cried the cheerful baker. “For it brings the PCC election closer.”

The clerk involuntarily applauded.

“Let me hear another sound from you,” Wood barked at Jones, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation.”

The old crazy hag departed. As she did so, she let two other gentlemen in. Said one of the gentlemen: “AvonShire Human Remains Department, I believe. I am looking for Mr Hazel, your Director”. “Mr Hazel has been gone for years.” snorted Wood. “It is now a Mr Kern but he is out – busy driving his tax-avoidance, courtesy Audi A6 with complimentary blues and twos, on his way to world domination. I’m Ms Wood.   HR Directors come and go – Mr Hazel, Mrs Zeeman, now Kern – but I’ve had my mucky fingerprints on all HR issues here for the past three decades. I am ‘in it’ up to my neck.” replied Wood.

The gentleman took up a pen: “You’ll do fine then.  At this festive time of the year, Ms Wood, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some provision for the serving police officers who are on long term sick leave and who had been injured on duty.  Many are on half or no pay and they are permanently disabled from performing the duties of a police officer.  Medical retirement is the only right thing for them.”

“Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?” asked Wood. “Plenty of mental health hospitals,” said the gentleman, “in which some of these benighted creatures may yet rest.” He went on: “A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy a means to provide welfare and support  for these poor wretches as the Federation seems to ignore the plight of their members. What shall I put you down for?” “Nothing!” Wood replied. “I don’t myself make merry at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make ill idle people merry. I am also medically retiring no-one.  I will protract their hell as long as I can until they resign themselves or better still expire themselves!  No one gets an Injury on Duty award from me any more.  Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

At length, the hour of shutting up the counting house arrived. Wood walked out with a growl and went home. She lived in chambers which had once belonged to her long departed former boss Mr Hazel. Wood, having her key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker not a knocker, but Hazel’s face. It looked at Wood as Hazel used to look: with a ghostly smile turned up upon its ghostly mouth. Though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That made it horrible. As Wood looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.

“Humbug!” said Wood. She closed the door and locked herself in; double-locked himself in.

The door flew open with a booming sound

Her colour changed when a wraith passed into the room before her eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame of the candle leaped up, as though it cried: “I know him! Hazel’s Ghost!” and fell again.

A chain was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail. It was made of old, nasty HR department decisions of the past 30 years that moulded the poisonous culture of AvonShire; readily retiring injured police officers on a whim because it suited the constabulary to recruit healthy  younger and cheaper officers;  cover-ups of institutional abuse, bullying and dodgy dealings; failure to redeploy injured officers by deliberately failing to make reasonable adjustments; allowing cronies and zealots to climb promotion ladders and standing back whilst these socio-paths drive their subordinates to illness.  All in all the chains were the lengths of toxicity of a thoroughly rotten organisation. Why else had Wood and Hazel, in all their days together, had administered over 480 injury awards.  Though she looked the phantom through and through, though she felt the chill of its death-cold eyes, she was still incredulous and fought against her senses.

“You don’t believe in me,” observed the Ghost.

“I don’t,” said Wood. “I never did.”

At this, the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with a dismal and appalling noise.

“Mercy!” said Wood. “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?” “You will be haunted,” said the Ghost, “by Three Spirits.”

“You are fettered,” said Wood, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.

Then the spectre floated through the window and out upon the bleak, dark night. Wood, desperate in her curiosity, looked out. The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither, and moaning as they went. Many had been personally known to Wood in their lives. They were the former officers whose careers Wood and Hazel had help ruin. Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, she could not tell.

Wood was returned to her bed when the hour bell sounded with a deep, dull, melancholy One. The curtains of her bed were drawn aside and Wood found herself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them. It was a strange figure. What was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness.

“Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Wood. “I am!” The voice was smooth with a sinister yet fruity flavour. “What are you?” Wood demanded. “I am the Ghost of HR Directors Past,” replied the pale faced apparition.

It put out its hand. The grasp, though clammy as a snail, was not to be resisted. They passed through the wall and across space and time until they stood amidst an office with a doctor talking to a sad, downhearted and clearly unstable and injured police officer .

“Good Heaven!” said Wood. She recognised the doctor as the former police surgeon.  A doctor who held the post for 35 years and died years before. “You are no use to this organisation any more” the doctor said to the tearful and shell-shocked now former police officer.  “From this day your services are no longer required.  Return to your station and get your belongings.  I’ll certify you as a band 4  – you are clearly never going to work again.  You’ll never get better, we won’t review you so just go and live your life”.

“Spirit!” cried Wood. “The doctor just gave a band 4!  But there isn’t a wheelchair in sight!  Why do you delight to torture me? Show me no more!”

“I told you these were the shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!” “Leave me!” Wood exclaimed. “Haunt me no longer!”

The hour struck again and with it came another phantom. “I am the ghost of HR Directors Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

From head to toe, the phantom was clothed in rags. “Touch my robe!” commanded the spirit and whisked Wood  on to the dwelling of a retired officer with an Injury on Duty award.  Wood recognised the person as someone she and Kern had recently forced in front of Dr Johnson to be reviewed.

The former police officer was not living the high life.  They were broken.  Not only had their career been snatched from them 15 years ago but the past 2 years of being continuously under review;  of being interrogated for 90 minutes by Dr Johnson; of having a report only for Dr Johnson to revisit issues, revoke the first draft and then write utterly incorrect drivel about his medical condition.  Not having any conclusion was having its toll on an already damage mental health.  Thoughts of ending the pain was the coursing through the synaptic paths of his brain.   He reached for the bottle of cheap whiskey and drained it with no thought of how the alcohol will react to the powerful anti-psychotic medication he was taking.

The clock struck another hour. Wood asked: “I am in the presence of the Ghost of HR Directors Yet To Come?” The Spirit answered not, but pointed downward with its hand. “Ghost of the Future!” Wood cried. “I fear you more than any Spectre I have seen. Will you not speak to me?” The still silent Spirit conveyed her to the High Court. “I see it,” said Wood. “Let me behold what shall be in days to come.” Wood hastened to the window of his court, and looked in. A Judicial Review was under way.  Wood saw herself standing  looking dishevelled whilst giving evidence before the Judge.  The ignominy of her situation was radiating from the Wood in the witness box .

Wood’s office back at HQ. The Spirit stood among the desks and chairs, and pointed to one. Wood crept towards it, trembling as she went. Following the finger, she read upon the desk a name she did not recognise but the job title was hers.  Someone else now has my job!” she thought.  Next to the name plate was the result of the Judicial Review – found in favour of the pensioner – and a critical opinion of the Judge in the failures of AvonShire HR senior officers.  Wood recognised her own handwriting on a memo lying in the desk’s out-tray.  It was a notice of retirement letter. She mouthed, “I’ve been forced to retire”.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no! Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

Holding up her hands in one last prayer to have her fate reversed, the phantom vanished.

Wood scrambled out of bed, resolved to change her future. Running to the window, he put out her head and called downward to a boy. “Hello, my fine fellow,” she cried. “Do you know the Poulterer’s at the corner? Go and buy the prize Turkey that hangs up there.” The boy was off like a shot.

“I’ll send it to the all the IODs whose lives I have rolled over these past 2 years,” whispered Wood, rubbing her hands with merriment.

She got dressed in her best, went downstairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the Turkey.

The boy returned, empty-handed. “Where’s the Turkey?” demanded Wood. The boy shrugged: “They say they’ll not sell anything to a heartless person such as you. They say the only Turkey you will see this Christmas is yourself.”

“Bah,” groaned old Wood. “Humbug!”

Lost in Space

Lost in Space
To boldly go where no sane HR director commander has gone before …

Acting Captain’s log, Stardate 2015.   I have assumed command at the request of … someone – perhaps even me. Our situation is deteriorating; many of the crew are unable to function and our life support systems are beginning to falter.”

Supplemental log. stardate 2015 Sector: Earth orbit. It looks like Earth but I am unsure. The crew are beginning to look at me with sideways glances. I fear I am losing their trust. My command is threatened. I must work out which planet we are near, or it may be too late to return through the wormhole.

On the bridge of the stalled starship Avonprise stood several of the bewildered senior officers and crew.

Second Lieutenant Jones adjusted a wedgie that was giving him gyp and said, to no-one in particular, “Is it just me, or is everyone on this ship monumentally f****d up about review missions?”

“What do you mean?” Bulpitt replied, a quizzical frown momentarily shadowing the studied bland innocence of his normal appearance.

“Well, I’m thinking that ever since Commander Zeeman was called back to Starfleet on that ‘misunderstanding’,  Commander Kern has put us all in these red jumpers. You know what happens when crew members wear red!” Jones said.

Dr Johnson arched an eyebrow at this. “What makes you say that, Jonesy?”

Before Jones could formulate a reply Galley Overseer Wood interjected into what would otherwise have been a long pause, “Well, we’re all replacing former crew members,” Wood pointed at Johnson and continued,“What happened to the one you replaced? Transferred out?”

“No,” said Johnson, “He was the death by vaporization one.”

“And mine got sucked out of the shuttle,” interjected Jones, who seemed to have momentarily regained focus. He continued, “And Nikolai  Garganov got eaten by a giant Octopus that was unable to keep its tentacles to itself. Maybe. Apparently. You have to admit there’s something going on there. Ever since that Borg Mountstevens tried to assimilate Kern, things have been weird around here. He said he escaped unharmed but I’m not too sure…”

Once started. Jones’ verbal diarrhoea was usually hard to stop, but he suddenly broke off as the communicator barked into life

“Travel time to the nearest uncontested completed review?” screamed the demanding voice of Kern.

Taking a deep sigh, Jones pressed the button and replied, “At maximum warp, in 2 years, 7 months, 3 days, 18 hours, we would reach a point where we can see infinity.” He quickly clicked the communicator off.

“Why does Commander Kern now think he is now a Starfleet captain?” questioned Wood, pouting.

“We have been captain-less for so long the power has driven him space-bat shit crazy,” opined Jones.

“Speaking of which,” Bulpitt said, motioning with his finger in the general direction of a spot behind Wood.

Jones and Johnson looked to where he pointed to see Kern materialise in a glowing circle of transporter light right in the middle of the bridge.

“Shields up! Rrrrred alert!” shouted Kern, as he shimmered into full materialisation. “I’m now controlling everything. You! Doc Johnson – every decision you ever made about anything doesn’t matter any more as I’m saying I can redo it. Final is no longer final and everything with an outcome is now not concluded.” He paused for dramatic effect as his words sank in, then continued, “And I am doing this just because I can,” he raved.

“But Commander Kern,” ventured Bulpitt nervously avoiding eye-contact with Kern whilst busily looking at his shoes, “Starfleet Prime Directives say that the Doctor is the only authority which is permitted to make the decisions on review missions.  All we can look at is the degree of disablement and that’s a medical question.  Even when he’s ballsed it all up …  ”,  Bulpitt shot an accusing glance at Johnson, “And he has.  Its got diddly-squat to do with any Commander.”

A hard, glazed look came into Kern’s eyes, and his face took on a flushed appearance. “I will continue, aboard this ship, to speak for the Borg. My orders are that you will continue, without further delay, to Sector 001, where my hive will force your unconditional surrender.” Looking imperiously about him, Kern continued, in a monotonous echoing tone, “We care not for your StarFleet directives. The Borg do what we want. I may be a lowly commander but I’ve been assimilated into the Borg collective and I now run this ship – and I will soon rule the whole universe, prime directives or not.”

“Oh well,” meekly ventured Wood, “looks like the whole galactic quadrant is up shit creek.”

Bulpitt turned to Wood and whispered in her ear, careful not be be overheard by Kern but thankful that the psychotic Borg drone was engaged in entering a long monologue about how he and his Borg buddies were doing exactly the opposite of what Starfleet directives and regulations demands of them.

“Death by falling rock. Death by toxic atmosphere. Death by pulse gun vaporization. It’s all good compared to being stuck on the same ship as this loon,” Bulpitt said.

“Death by shuttle door malfunction,” Wood whispered in reply.

“Death by ice shark,” Bulpitt replied.

“Death by what?” Wood said, blinking. “What the hell is an ice shark?”

“You got me,” Bulpitt said. “I had no idea there was such a thing.”

“Is it a shark made of ice?” Wood asked. “Or a shark that lives in ice?”

“It wasn’t specified at the time,” Bulpitt said.

“I’m thinking you should have called bullshit on the ice shark story,” Jones said, earwigging.

“Even if the details are sketchy, it fits your larger point,” Bulpitt said. “People here have review missions on the brain.”

“It’s because someone always meets one’s end on them,” Wood said.

At this point the utter confusion, petty bickering, position-protecting and empire building was thankfully brought to a sudden end as the starship Avonprise was blown to smithereens by a missile launched from deep hyperspace by the all-powerful Guardians of Law and Decency.


Same old, same old …

Same old, same old …

Featured image

“Of course it’s the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.”
Margaret Thatcher

 Truth is the same old story. That’s the truth by the way, and not the spin of Avon & Somerset.  It is almost 12 months since the 12th and 13th of November 2014 when, of the first group of 16 band fours (all the youngest of those receiving an IOD award and after waiting 6 months already), a subset of 6 were forced to see the selected medical practitioner (SMP),  Dr Johnson, at the occupational health unit at  Portishead. At £500 per IOD, Dr Johnson invoiced at least £3000 ( expenses an extra of course) for 2 days of work.

None of these 6 unfortunates have received a final decision from Dr Philip Johnson.  Twelve months of incompetence, dishonesty and deceit.

Quite a few were told that this is a ‘2 stage process’ and ‘there may be no need to see the SMP’; whilst all the time the Janus-faced HR  managers of Avon & Somerset and the force medical officer had always craftily fully intended to push all 16 in front of Johnson for reasons given below in this post and ‘test’ their processes.  The 6 seen in the 2nd week of November 2014 were the forlorn – the guinea pigs of the 16 guinea pigs.

Avon & Somerset HR would be eager to tell anyone listening that the apathetic delay is no fault of theirs.  That they have been acting within the Regulations throughout, that their actions are beyond reproach and that it is the fault of the IODs and those that have advised them.  Blame the victim for being a victim – isn’t this the first rule of ‘101 Rules on How to be a Bully’?

But the truth is more prosaic.  There is no poetic narrative that allows A&S to spin this in a positive light.  They have royally cocked up. A correctly managed review under Regulation 37 should take no more than 3 months from start to finish.

Dr Johnson is still adamant that if the force wants him to review someone then he has determined that he has absolute rights to have full medical records since birth as he needs to ‘understand the reason for the retirement’.

It is strange then that the same force using Johnson has sent those IODs lucky enough not to see Johnson to other SMPs who are happy and content to accept partial medical records only since the date of last decision.  Why the inconsistency?  Easy.  It’s because Johnson has set his position in stone with a few individuals and if he accepts partial notes with others whilst refusing to make a decision on those he (and A&S) wants to perform a fresh assessment upon, he will not be able justify the juxtaposition.

We all know by now that when a review is held it is unlawful to conduct an entirely fresh assessment of degree of disablement. Note to A&S: That is not IODPA’s opinion, it is the pronouncement of the High Court. Please read the case of SIMPSON, where it was determined,

‘ I accept Mr Lock’s submission that the SMP and the PMAB cannot conduct a fresh review of the uninjured earning capacity and the actual earning capacity of the former officer and then, comparing the outcome of that assessment with the previously determined degree of disablement, conclude that there has been an alteration in the former officer’s degree of disablement.’

There is no justification for a SMP demanding access to full medical records since birth to ‘understand’ the reason why the IOD was given in the first place, as the degree of disablement, the disablement itself, and the reasoning and/or medical evidence which was used to arrive at those decisions are not open to question or challenge.

The singular question requested of a SMP at review is whether has been any alteration in degree of disablement. But Dr Johnson seems not to understand, or to care. He doesn’t like the Regulations, so he thinks he can ignore them.

The Regulations and caselaw demand stability and finality.

In other words there is no devil’s advocate position of asking ‘why not just give Johnson what he wants’.   Johnson is not required to ‘get in the mind’ and understand the logic of the previous SMP that either retired or last reviewed the IOD.

As the regulations say,

The decision of the selected medical practitioner on the question or questions referred to him under this regulation shall be expressed in the form of a report and shall, subject to regulations 31 and 32, be final.

And stated by Justice Burton in Turner v PMAB

It is important from the point of view of disputes such as pension entitlement that a decision once made should be final if at all possible, and that is what is provided by these Regulations

Continued by Lord Justice Laws in the Belinda Laws appeal

The premise is that the earlier decision as to the degree of disablement is taken as a given; and the duty – the only duty – is to decide whether, since then, there has been a change

The real truth of it is that A&S have lost or destroyed quantities of occupational health files and other personal records, dating back in some instances to when the individuals concerned were retired, many years ago. This force has 490 IODs but A&S seem to have lost the majority of files it has on these people.

Where they have files they whinge that they are unable to read the handwriting of the doctors who were involved in the grant of injury awards. Why would they need to? There is no lawful reason. The truth behind why Johnson wants full medical records is that he simply can’t accept that he has to conform to the law. He wants to second-guess final decisions which are not there to be questioned. Remember that Johnson was drafted in by his ‘mate’ Dr Bulpitt, the force medical officer. These 2 sat together and devised the current ‘procedures’ to review people and Dr Johnson is therefore their main agent.

Bulpitt no doubt would like to have all the medical records he mistakenly thinks he is entitled to and therefore to rebuild the stocks of the ones the force has either lost or destroyed.  What better way than to get the IOD, his or herself, to willingly provide all the medical records the force should have retained in the first place.  And whilst at it, they can use the newly gleaned information to have another pop at apportionment and causation.

This is why the other 2 SMPs used in 2014 kept to their remit in regard to disclosure and were quite content with only partial records.  They were ‘contracted’ in and had no involvement or desire to join in the schemes of Bulpitt to rebuild his library of medical records.  Each of these managed to finalise their own reports expeditiously, showing what a true laggard Johnson really is.

Why has a force such as Avon & Somerset been so lackadaisical with pertinent medical data of those it has retired?

Police Public bodies do not have a great track record on data protection and A&S is a particular offender that has allowed personal medical data of retired officers to ‘disappear’.

Arguably Avon & Somerset has lost medical records and personnel files as it didn’t want to be burnt with the potent stuff written within.

So Bulpitt wants another pop in getting all the medical history without the nasty (to him) truth that complicates his job of what truly happened when the person was originally retired.  (Shamefully, illegality with regard to injury awards isn’t a new thing in Portishead police HQ.  It seems they have been up to their devious tricks for quite a long time, and repeatedly the names of the same offenders HR people keep cropping up).

Why stop there? They no doubt thought. Why not have another go at the full decision itself !  Could this be the reason why no person who saw Johnson on the week in mid November 2014 has had a decision.  Has Bulpitt and Johnson realised that not only are they skating on thin ice but in fact they have slipped into the depths of pure illegality, both by breaching the Regulations but also the data protection act?  A 18 month time period does not strike of a public authority with the confidence to defend a decision.

So in mid October 2015 it is the same old story.  A&S thinks it can carry on regardless by continued procrastination, it shows no remorse, it hides behind a cloud of obfuscation and thinks no one is noticing that they have been ruining peoples lives for 18 months.

The baffling thing is that they somehow still believe if they send letters to IODs so far unaffected, that they will happily trot along with their plans without a second thought.

Even if A&S wakes up to what it has done, the damage to its reputation is already insurmountable. What IOD will now place themselves helplessly in the jaws of such a monster?

Tell your version of the truth to whomever will listen A&S, no one will believe you any more.

Legal Services

Legal Services

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Today, let’s discuss the legal services department of Avon & Somerset Constabulary. It can only be guessed at why a Legal Services team now handles all enquiries about injury pensions, which include the police pension authority’s abuse of its power of discretion to review them, questions over interference in the SMP’s independent decision-making role, and many other matters of contention. But let us try to make sense of it.

A&S’s Daniel Johnson (Solicitor Advocate) and Shahzad Hamid who is a ‘caseworker’ have been busy sending what I can only call ‘one direction’ correspondence to those former officers caught up with this travesty. Its one direction because these two tell people they are involved, and say they are looking into matters but then clam up when asked when a response will be given. They then stop replying and retreat into silence. To reply would mean either lying, or telling the truth, and these legal eagles are too crafty to commit to either, for lying would inevitably bite the liar, and telling the truth would mean the force having to admit it is in the wrong.

Back in October 2014 several of the 16 being reviewed received this ominous email – yes email!, HR obviously had no uneasy feeling of doubt with disclosing personal email addresses to a 3rd party – from the two protagonists above:

From: #LegalAdvice

This matter has been passed to the Legal Services Directorate who are reviewing your correspondence.

We will respond to you once we have considered and reviewed the matter.


Legal Services

True to form and despite numerous requests for updates and questions on why legal services are involved there has been no response. Either they have given up ‘considering the matter’ or have considered it and have not been happy with the conclusion they’ve drawn.

It is as if A&S thought that by telling us that the heavies of legal services are now involved that we would be browbeaten into acquiescence. Why would a force feel it needed to try to bully former offices by telling them that enquiries are in the hands of their solicitors?

The 2012 stated case of Crudace can show A&S where bullying leads..

The judge gave a damning indictment of the bully-boy tactics of the force concerned:

It is, however right to bear in mind that the letter was sent by the solicitor of a public body to a disabled unrepresented former officer.

That force was Northumbria, and its solicitor threatened 45 elderly disabled former officers who’d had the temerity to seek an appeal on what later was proved to be unlawful decisions by the force’s SMP. He told them their appeals were hopeless, and if they went ahead the force would apply for costs when they lost.

There has been nothing heard from Shahzad and Dan for several months now. That is, until the latest HR ‘liaison’ meeting. Of course the word ‘liaison’ means something different to A&S than it does to normal folk. Instead of being a meeting to facilitate communication and discussion it is just another black hole into which all questions and queries disappear. The liaison meetings serve one purpose only – they are intended to enable Wood, Bulpitt and Jones to inform local NARPO and Police Federation representatives why the force hasn’t done anything to sort out the mess it has made, and why the delay is all the fault of the IODs.

The latest meeting in June 2015 concluded that:

Avon and Somerset Force HR reported that they now have one instance whereby they consider there is a ‘failure to engage’ with the process by one IOD pensioner, this is being looked at by their legal department.

There is nothing in the Regulations concerning ‘failure to engage’. This is no more than a convenient invention by a force which knows it is in the wrong and seeks to displace the blame. There is regulation 33, but this concerns the wilful and negligent failure to attend a medical examination.  Even if such an event were to occur the only power provided by regulation 33 is that a decision can be made on the available medical evidence.  It is not a free pass to conduct a fresh review and is in no way  a gateway to sanction the infliction of a penalty that automatically reduces the award.

The Home Office stated this month that ‘reduction of awards without proper examination was declared unlawful’.

Before an injury pension can be revised, substantial alteration has to be proved – no evidence of improvement is in no way substantial alteration. The argument from ignorance raises it’s ugly head again.

But what if the person involved is too ill to attend an assessment, and who has sent medical reports from their specialist to the selected medical practitioner explaining that is the case, and who has been pleading with the HR department not to review just now? Any humane, responsible, intelligent, Regulations-savvy HR person would realise that not only should this person not be reviewed as the interval of time since the last decision on degree of disablement is not a suitable interval, but the blanket approach of reviewing a group of band fours is unlawful, and that in the 15 years since their last decision their health has deteriorated.

Is that pensioner ‘failing to engage’? I think it is seen by A&S rather as a case of too much engagement. They would prefer all disabled former officers were compliant sheep.  The police pension authority via it’s SMP proxy has available evidence to say in such a circumstance a review is not appropriate. Yet they fail to accept that, and instead of ending the misery they are visiting on the pensioner they want to leave matters endlessly hanging, and imply it is all the pensioner’s fault.

Of course, this is A&S HR I’m talking about, so if its threats and abuse you want, they are the people for the job, but otherwise, forget it.

Deep in their den of Legal Services, Dan and Shahzad have undoubtedly been tasked to frame their next course of action to fit their preferred perverted version of the facts.  The decision to ‘come down hard’ has been made.  They now have to invent the justification. And that is the bottom line why Legal Services have been engaged.  Good luck with that, boys.

Avon & Somerset finds itself in the review paradox.

If the reason to invoke a review is unlawful, as exemplified by A&S failing to make a decision to review on a case by case basis, then any revision of the award is unlawful. The Regulations tell us clearly, that only when a police pension authority is considering whether to revise an injury pension shall it refer the question of degree of disablement to a duly qualified medical practitioner. Well, the fact is you can’t revise an injury pension unless they believe that that pensioners level of disablement has altered. In plain language, understood by all except those in A&S who would prefer the Regulations were written differently, this means that there has to be some good reason for believing there has been an alteration in degree of disablement before they can tell a pensioner he has to see the SMP,

The paradox is that it is unlawful to make a revision to an award when there was no reason to invoke the revision in the first instance.

The corollary to the paradox is that is it unlawful to declare a ‘failure to engage’ when the Regulations are absent of such a term, and you can not ‘fail to engage’ in an invocation of something that should not have been brought into being.

Perhaps Dan and Shahzad need to brush up on their legal skills.

Maybe Its finally sinking in

Maybe Its finally sinking in

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Albert Einstein



“The question was raised that in some instances Police Regs over-ruled HR Policies, consideration should be given to align HR Policies to Police Regs”

The above was recorded in the minutes of the AVON AND SOMERSET POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER HR PORTFOLIO UPDATE MEETING 27th March, 2015

ATTENDEES: Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner (SM) Mark Simmonds, CFO, OPCC (MOS) Julian Kern, CFO, OCC (JK) Catherine Dodsworth, Head of People Development (CD) Joanne Drewe, Executive Assistant to CFO & Director of Resources (JD)

Apparently their HR policies (in only ‘some’ instances!) are over-ruled by police regulations.   This is exactly the point IODPA has been trying to get them to understand for the past 12 months. Hurrah !

The delicious irony in mentioning that there is concern about the length of time taken to complete reviews is obviously lost on them as it’s now June still nothing has been done about it.  Obviously not too concerned then.  Boo !

Excuse the given that those in charge of the asylum have but a basic knowledge of the law and how to run a company but isn’t it pretty basic stuff that your HR Policies should align with your Employees’ Employment Regulations (in this case the Police Regulations / relevant case-law)?

Surely otherwise your HR Policies aren’t worth the paper they are written on?  The Human Resources department of a police force have polices that are contrary to the law?

Who’d a thought that would be a ‘thing’ ?

SMP has left disabled former officers adrift…

SMP has left disabled former officers adrift…

Allegedly Dr Philip Johnson is no longer working for Avon & Somerset Constabulary as their nominated Selected Medical Practitioner.  Given there are 15 band 4s, under amoral intent referred to Dr Johnson for his consideration of substantial alteration to their medical condition, who saw said SMP over 3 months ago and still not received a decision, it is a shocking indictment of the arrogance of Avon & Somerset Constabulary.

So, what are the options open to the police pension authority now?

They have an obligation, indeed a legal duty to complete the review process. There is nothing in the Regulations which covers the circumstances where a SMP refuses to decide or can’t decide. The Regulations say that the PPA ‘shall refer for decision’ the statutory question of degree of disablement. Having referred it, and having got no decision, then the process is complete and it is shocking that severely disabled civilians have had no letter explaining the delay; no update, nothing but total silence, as if the HR department at Portishead are pretending as if nothing has happened.  At the least, the police pension authority and those delegated in its administration are culpable of serious maladministration; at most there is a case to be answered for Misfeasance in a public office.

A review is a highly stressful life event and this has affected the lives of those concerned since 29th May 2014.  Almost a year.  Some of the 16 have had serious relapses of their mental and physical health others have had surgical operations.  Why is the federation not asking questions?  Why is the force being so opaque?  The answers will be heard.

NAMF – A coven of vipers.

NAMF – A coven of vipers.

NAMF:  The National Attendance Management Forum.

A committee of HR managers, finance managers, force medical officers made up from a large number of police authorities throughout England and Wales, that meet up to discuss how they can ‘deal’ with those entitled to and in receipt of Injury on Duty awards.  After the Home Office’s guidance was declared unlawful, the meetings provide a convenient avenue for the Home Office to drip feed advice to the forces, instigate a culture and then set the fuse for the encouraged HR managers to go off and work themselves up into a feeding frenzy.

NAMF is semi-clandestine because IOD pensioners generally remain unaware of it. The Forum does not advertise its existence, whilst not exactly attempting to keep itself secret. References to it do occasionally appear on force documents but it does not routinely publish its agenda or minutes. If you Google the Forum you will see that most references to the NAMF result from Freedom of Information Act requests.

The National Attendance Management Forum meets at premises provided by West Midlands Police at their Tally Ho! training centre. Meetings are held every three months.

The Forum comprises representatives from c. 35 forces from across the service, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. A unique feature is the mix of professional skills and background of representatives, which include Lawyers, Personnel Professionals, Doctors and Occupational Health Practitioners. Colleagues from the Home Office and NPIA also attend.

The mix of disciplines allows the Forum to debate and progress a wide variety of work from across the occupational health, legal and HR fields. The views of IOD pensioners are never sought by the Forum.

The NAMF is infamous for being used by the Home Office in its attempts to circumvent the Regulations. A steadfast regular attendee was none other than John Gilbert – the civil servant author of Annex C to Home Office circular 46/2004.

As to the ‘lawyers’ the list of delegates shows Nicholas Wirz (Northumbria), whose legal advice to his force seems to have been somewhat lacking as he was the instructing solicitor to Johnathan Holl-Allen, QC in the case of Crudace V PMAB,  decided that significant parts of the Home Office guidance were unlawful. Written evidence supplied by Wirz to the Haworth case was equally unconvincing. Wirz was the gentleman who wrote threatening letters to 45 of the 70 disabled former officers whose injury pensions had been reduced in one afternoon on 20th February 2009 by SMP Dr. Broome. The 45 pensioners had given notice of appeal, and Wirz’s letters effectively threatened them with having to pay the £6,200 costs of any appeal and also contained his opinion that any appeal would be hopeless. Northumbria is the force listed in several judicial reviews and pension ombudsman decisions.

Rather worryingly given his track record Wirz now provides guidance to selected medical practitioners who attend NAMF functions: MR+NICHOLAS+WIRZ+PRESENTATION+(1)

The paradox is that despite the guidance that NAMF churns out having no legal basis and no substance that it is in harmony with the regulations, shamefully forces now use it as a badge of honour when conducting a review – basically saying ‘Its OK we’re following NAMF guidance’.  In fact what they should be saying is ‘It’s OK – we’re following the regulations to the letter’.  NAMF guidance is now being used as the Injury on duty equivalent to the Nuremberg defence.

There seems to be little doubt that the NAMF is the source of poor and ill-thought out information which can be readily seized upon by lazy and ignorant HR and OH ‘professionals’ who can’t be bothered to read and understand the Regulations and stated cases for themselves. It is also a platform for a small number of people whose motives are suspect and who seek to manipulate opinion. As a showcase for the talents of the people who are entrusted with the administration of police injury pensions the NAMF is more of an example of a group of people with which to frighten your grandchildren than to inspire them with role models.

Regulation 37

Regulation 37

The ‘positive duty to review’ and the weapon to ‘protect the public purse’

There’s an introduction to regulation 37 here on the ‘The Regs – and what they mean to you’ page.

It’s quite difficult to explain what is meant by earning capacity and how this is the measure of the degree of disablement.  It’s even harder to convince people that the regs do not directly correlate ‘physical disability’ to its meaning of ‘degree of disablement’.

A problem is that reg37 is silent on the detail on how individual forces shall measure the loss of earning capacity.  It has quite simply stated the banding of slight, minor, major and severe is enough instruction, but just like mankind has a tendency to do, something simple has be turned into something complicated.  The complication is the ‘guidance’ that police forces use in an effort to justify their defiled view of what it is to ‘protect’ the  public purse.

The thing is that to be given an IOD award, a high bar has already been passed.  There are 4 levels of attainment to qualify:

(a)whether the person concerned is disabled;

(b)whether the disablement is likely to be permanent,

(c)whether the disablement is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty, and

(d) the degree of the person’s disablement;

If a former officer has an IOD and ALL of the above wasn’t satisfied (retired off, wink, wink, nudge, nudge…) then that says more about the force that did it than the former officer it was done to.

In reality an injured serving officer lives a  hell once injured.  Treated like a malingerer, put on surveillance, reduced to half pay.  The full weight of bureaucracy is put against them and that injured person has to prove everything – permanence, whether the injury was on duty, whether it was in the execution of their duty and all the rest.  An award may be begrudgingly given.  More than likely a civil claim against the force is ongoing as well as the ‘injury in the execution of their duty’ was down to poor management, being single crewed, having defective equipment. Once gone the retired officer has to justify his or her level of loss of earning capacity when they apply for an award so another fight with the HR department starts.

Now retired, the former officer wants to live their life in peace often with a deep resentment of how they were treated.  But every 2 years a letter pops through their postbox calling them to attend a review of their degree of disablement as the police force claims they have to protect the public purse under regulation 37. The insinuation is that the award is something you have to prove for life.  Not much of an award is it?

It’s no wonder that those retired on the lowest tier, a band 1, who’s condition and earning capacity deteriorates rarely if ever ask for a review.  They haven’t the strength.  It can be said that that are more IOD retirees with a banding lower than is strictly appropriate than a banding higher. But that’s the nature of beast – the SMP gives a subjective figure using his qualified medical judgement. If and when circumstances dictate on review here has been substantial change, in other words an substantial improvement or a substantial deterioration, then a revision is permissible, down a band or up a band respectively.  Retrospective attempts at cost-saving redress by HR and Finance teams because they think in hindsight the original banding wasn’t the right one is unlawful as much as it is it impossible.  The award was given at the Zeitgeist of the original decision and if there is notable substantial alteration it is a SMP alone that performs the revision; not for HR departments to interfere and influence the SMP or to attempt to rewrite history.

Case-law deals with the finality of the banding: Laws Appeal 2010

The result is to provide a high level of certainty in the assessment of police injury pensions. It is not open to the SMP/Board to reduce a pension on a Regulation 37(1) review by virtue of a conclusion that the clinical basis of an earlier assessment was wrong. Equally, of course, they may not increase a pension by reference to such a conclusion; and it is right to note that Mr Butler, appearing for the Board, voiced his client’s concern that so confined an approach to earlier clinical findings might in some cases work to the disadvantage of police pensioners

Imagine a person with PTSD and severe mental illness.  A constant review program will lead the person to being sectioned under the mental health act.  Military veterans aren’t treated with this level of disrespect so why are retired former police officers?

Why all the hullabaloo about IOD reviews?

Why all the hullabaloo about IOD reviews?

Injury on Duty Awards used to come out of central government funds but that changed in the early ‘noughties and the awards became payable out of the individual force’s budget.  But the Home Office threw a sop to the forces – now obligated to pay for their decisions they made to retire former officers.  Their redress was new Home Office Guidance – Home Office Circular (HOC) 46/2004

The problem is that although the Regulations are unchanged, many Police Authorities ( probably slightly less than half of the authorities in England and Wales) changed their policy following the issue of the guidance in HOC 46/2004 and introduced reviews triggered when the retired officer reaches the ages of 60 and 65. Although this guidance and policies based on it have been declared unlawful and withdrawn, forces are still attempting to find ways to reduce IOD bands in order to make budget savings. Existing injury pensions which may or may not have been subject to review previously were now reviewed under the new guidance which, in some forces was pursued aggressively.

HOC 46/2004 was unlawful and challenged – not directly at first – there was a blow-back and the new aggressive stance by Police Pension Authorities was used on other former officers, of all ages, in receipt of IOD awards.  Turner V PMAB and Laws V PMAB were case-law decided as a direct result of 46/2004 even though neither of the appellants were 65 years old.  This circular corrupted the administration of ALL IOD awards and the whole thing came down to ways the police pension authority can save money.  Lets not forget who had to challenge the unlawful guidance – incapacitated and disabled former police officers.

Turner and Laws were successful on points of law.  After that the guidance itself contained within HOC 46/2004 was challenged both by  judicial review (Crudace, Simpson etc)  and by the pension ombudsman (Ayers, Sharp etc) and the guidance was declared unlawful in 2013 in the consent order Slater V PMAB and officially withdrawn.

But the Rubicon had been crossed and the police pension authorities had tasted blood.  In the days of austerity how better for a high-flying Chief Finance Officer (CFO) to mark their career by making instant savings into their budget. If they can save ££££ then their CV and LinkedIn would be flowered up and then a new role with  an inflated 6 figure salary plus bonus will be within their grasp.  Like a plague of locusts, using the budget reduction as evidence, the CFOs think they can move onto a new force to decimate and corrupt the administration of IOD awards there as well.

Did the Home Office and police pension authorities accept they were wrong?  No.  The guidance was withdrawn and the Home Office and those forces that pursued 46/2004 maliciously had their fingers burnt.  Out of the ashes the National Attendance Management Forum (NAMF) was born.  A coven of HR and finance managers who meetup at Tally Ho! Conference Centre Birmingham. The cynically minded might view this organisation as an attempt to further undermine the regulations with an attempt to keep  keeping the sphere of influence separate so the Home Office doesn’t get the blame.

There will be further posts all about NAMF.