Lesley-Anne Knowles

Neither Lawful or Unlawful

Neither Lawful or Unlawful

“If it doesn’t say it’s not, then its allowed” to misquote and paraphrase Dostoyevsky’s  “If there is no God, everything is permitted” .

Without a rule of law as a higher authority  – so the story goes – there is nothing ultimately to prevent us from ruthlessly exploiting our neighbours, using them as tools for profit and pleasure, or enslaving, humiliating and killing them in their millions.  This isn’t the case in truth – an action can be known to be unlawful even though there isn’t an exact line of text that defines without ambiguity it’s legitimacy.  Just because an esoteric Law or Regulation is silent on a particular transgression does not mean that the transgression is permitted.

The Police and Injury Benefit Regulations 2006 does not allow for the interpretation that on reaching 65 years of age a former officer has no earning capacity.  However nowhere is this explicitly mentioned; but it is still a given.  A given because the nature and purpose of the statutory scheme is to provide an entitlement of an award for life.

The Police Pension Authorities and the Home Office knew this and were ‘trying it on’ hoping that their illegality wouldn’t be challenged. And it was,  and they lost.

They are at it again…

The minutes of the National Attendance Management Forum hosted by West Midlands Police on Friday 27th March 2015 has this to say about PEAM (Police Earnings Assessment Matrix):

neither lawful or unlawful

If a matter is not lawful then it must be unlawful.  The opposite of lawful is unlawful, illegal, illegitimate, incorrect,unacceptable, wrong, illicit, prohibited, taboo.  So there is nowhere for NAMF to go on this; they state themselves that PEAM is not lawful.

Not lawful because it is up to the SMP to decide the degree of disablement as a medical matter by assessing the impact of the duty injury to the former officer’s earning capacity – it is a medical question not an accountancy exercise.  It is a broad judgement to be made by the clinician about the effect of the injury or condition he has examined in contrast to a much more detailed calculation based on earnings data,  and that his/her decision is final.  When has a SMP ever used PEAM?   – the bad maths is always performed subsequently by a HR functionary.  That is not lawful.

The travesty is that they know such an artificial earning matrix is unlawful but they will not stop using it until a former disabled police officer is disadvantaged, agonised and tormented by an unjust calculation to such an extent that they have no option but to challenge it in judicial review.  Why should something known to be unlawful need to have a court to reaffirm it’s unlawfulness?  Because NAMF is on a crusade to undermine the regulations.

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.

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.