Neither are we impressed by the so-called floodgates argument advanced by the respondent. We consider this to be an irrelevant factor to our considerations.
― His Honour Judge D Morris
IODPA membership continues to grow. Membership is open to all former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. We also are very happy to include serving officers who are at any stage of retirement because of ill health through injury.
Injury on duty pensioners and serving officers are turning to IODPA for one reason only – they need support and advice to deal with ongoing attacks on their pension rights.
It is a sad fact that some forces have shifted their money-saving focus in respect of pensions. They now try to deny ill or injured serving officers their pension rights. We hear of officers who are signed off sick, then reduced to half pay, or even no pay. The intention is, we fear, to pressure them into resigning. Which means they do not qualify for an enhanced ordinary pension. We hear of lengthy and essentially pointless processes designed to force ill officers back to work – with ‘reasonable adjustments’ made to working conditions which turn out to be completely unreasonable and in many cases actually further damage the individual’s health.
We can perhaps highlight some of these abuses in future blogs, but for now we want to look back to 2006 and at the appeal case brought by Phillip Tully, a former North Wales Police officer.
This case is important for it illustrates two aspects which remain relevant today.
Firstly, it exposes the lengths some forces go to in the ironic and self-defeating costly pursuit of saving pensions money. Secondly, it reveals the misplaced and utterly inappropriate attitude towards their duties and responsibilities of, in this case, the North Wales police pension scheme managers. Those attitudes remain entrenched in some other forces to this day.
Mr Tully served from 1991 to 2001. He ceased to serve due to physical disability. However, for reasons which the appeal case does not make clear North Wales Police did not offer to assess him for a deferred pension, or Mr Tully did not apply for one.
On 19th March 2005 Mr Tully applied for early payment of pension on grounds of permanent disability. A deferred pension is payable under regulation B5 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987.
North Wales Police received the letter on the 14th March.
As is so often the situation, North Wales then proceeded very slowly. Mr Tully was required to see two doctors appointed by the force, and some eleven months after his application the pension authority indicated he qualified for a deferred pension.
However, the pension authority decided that it would become payable not from the date of Mr Tully’s retirement in 2001, nor from the date of his application for a deferred pension in 2005, but from the 16th February 2006, when a Dr Entwistle decided Mr Tully was permanently disabled from performing the ordinary duties of a police officer.
We need not go into the detail of the legal arguments advanced by North Wales, as it is sufficient to say the court found no merit in them. Mr Tully won his appeal.
The court decided,
First, we are satisfied that Parliament intended that, generally speaking, pension entitlements under these regulations should be payable from the date of an officer’s retirement unless or until that was limited or excluded by operation of an express provision to that effect elsewhere in the same regulations.
Here is a copy of the court ruling –R v Tully. 2006
Mr Tully won his appeal. The Court decided his deferred pension should be paid from the 1st October 2001, the date of his retirement.
The first lesson from this case then is that former officers, and those about to retire due to disabling ill health or injury need to seek professional advice so as to be fully made aware of their pension rights and entitlements. It is never wise to rely on a police force having sufficiently well qualified and knowledgeable staff who will always ‘do the right thing’ and act within the Regulations. Even with the best of intentions, HR and Occupational Health staff make far too many mistakes.
The second lesson concerns the darkness which lays behind some decisions made by pension scheme managers. It seems that North Wales Police thought it appropriate to try to convince the court that Mr Tully’s appeal should be rejected because a successful appeal would bring forth a flood of other former officers who had been paid their pensions from an incorrect start date.
We have at the head of this blog quoted the Court’s response to this distasteful argument.
IODPA’s response is to remind police pension authorities they have a duty to administer the pension regulations in a way which is compatible with the intentions of Parliament. The various pension entitlements were put in place in recognition that police work can be dangerous, and wearing. The Metropolitan Police introduced the very first pension scheme in 1829. Benefits were provided on disablement for London officers “worn out by length of service”.
Not much has changed in that respect. Officers earn their pensions and it is not for misguided scheme managers to frustrate the intentions of Parliament by devising endless variations of ways to deny them their pension rights.