Regulation 37

Chief Constable Morgan’s open letter

Chief Constable Morgan’s open letter

Today Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, the Staffordshire Chief Constable placed an open letter on his website regarding the forces recent Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 reviews under Section 37(1), and the recent resignation of his Selected Medical Practitioner (SMP) – Dr Vivian, who informed us last week that performing the role of a SMP in relation to these reviews had, “been a major burden”.

It was our intention to seek permission to reproduce the open letter here, but as Mr Morgan who is a prolific Twitter user, has previously blocked us, we were unable to ask. The article has been marked as an open letter, and so we will reproduce it here in it’s entirety, and also provide a link to the original so you may read it in all it’s glory.

Open letter


Pension review of retired Injured on Duty (IoD) officers

On 26 April 2017 Staffordshire Police began a pension review of retired Injured on Duty (IoD) officers in accordance with Reg. 37 (1) of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 which places a duty upon the Police Pension Authority (the Chief Constable) to review whether the degree of the pensioners’ disablement has altered. Injury Benefit pensions (commonly known as Injury Awards) are granted to retired officers who have been medically assessed as being between Band 1 (slight disablement) to Band 4 (very severe disablement). By law a review cannot result in an injury pensioner being reduced to less than Band 1 so they are never removed in their entirety.

Since this time, and after confirming my intention to continue the reviews after my arrival as Chief Constable, there has been misinformation and misrepresentation of facts in what appears to be an attempt to besmirch the professional reputation of independent medical practitioners and Staffordshire Police. A small number of individuals have set out to campaign against these reviews in a manner which my staff have described as akin to harassment and intimidation – much of it on line and in the public domain.

I have always recognised that these reviews can cause concern and we have committed to expediting the process for that reason. I recognise that everyone is entitled to a view and are allowed to express it. However, the conduct of individuals is such that the independent Senior Medical Practitioner (SMP) no longer wishes to conduct injury assessments for retired officers at this time. The assertion circulating that the SMP left because he was being required to follow the instructions of the force and act unethically is entirely without foundation.

Every care is taken to ensure the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 and related case law are adhered to. I reviewed the process and sought legal and HR advice before confirming my intention to continue the reviews. I am entirely confident that the procedures comply with the regulations and are lawful, both in the way Staffordshire Police conducts itself and in the actions of the SMP.

So far, reviews have commenced for 34 people. To date, 13 have been completed and have reached outcomes, of which four IoD pensioners have had their banding reduced to Band 1. To date, three of these pensioners have stated their intention to appeal as is their right in accordance with the Regulations. Appeals are conducted by the Police Medical Appeal Board, which is independent of Staffordshire Police.

The pension benefit review has not been held in the interests of money saving and no savings are assumed in our forecast budget plans. In fact, the total cost to Staffordshire Police for IoD pensioners amounts to £3 million per annum.

The review is to ensure we are ethical and proportionate in the way that we use public money and to ensure there is a fair and consistent approach to all. The review will ensure that the pensioners continue to receive the appropriate level of award.

I acknowledge we have a duty of care to support IoD pensioners and we are fully committed to providing that support to the most professional of standards. This covers all 360 IoD pensioners we have in Staffordshire. I also have a duty of care to my staff which is why I am writing this letter to iterate that I will not tolerate the treatment they have recently received.

I would ask that everyone reads the information that clearly outlines the review process on our website pages. Appeals, complaints and concerns should be submitted through formal channels and not aired in such a way that discredits the working practices of my colleagues who are simply carrying out their lawful and legal duties.

Gareth Morgan

Chief Constable, Staffordshire Police

21 Dec 2017 17:00:08 GMT

He has stated that reviews are not being conducted to save money.

He has also stated that no-one can be reduced below a band one, despite Staffordshire Police clearly threatening to suspend awards if the IOD does not comply with their demands. (here is the before and after).

What saddens us is the need to blame extremely poorly pensioners for the reason for Dr Vivian to withdraw from the process.

We wonder how the Regulations and case law is being adhered to when we read there are at least three pensioners who are appealing.

Also, what was the end result of the other nine pensioners?

We notice that Mr Morgan has blocked any comments being placed after the article on the Staffordshire Police website, which sort of makes his rant one way. Never mind, we’ll be happy to accept your comments! As always, please make them constructive.

Finally we have to ask, is a “Senior Medical Practitioner”, a SMP who is somehow superior in position or authority to an ordinary “Selected Medical Practitioner”? Answers on a postcard.

Neither too little, nor too much

Neither too little, nor too much

Hold it. You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see the three bears eat the three little pigs, and then the bears join up with the big bad wolf and eat Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood all who attend NAMF!

Tell me a story like that, OK? Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (misquoted)

A question … what does ‘neither too little, nor too much’ actually mean?

The term derives from the fairytale about a little girl named Goldilocks and her encounter with three bears. The nightmarish  modern versions recount a Director of HR who, every 2 years, breaks and enters a home and keeps sampling the possessions of the medically retired mother bear with an injury award, the father and the child, choosing, for example, an injury award which is not too low, not too high, but just right.

The term has now been adopted into a phenomenon often referred to as the Goldilocks principle and the Goldilocks effect.  Often Directors of HR put the term into their garbled ‘guidance’ when they write to the poor mother mentioned above.

Julian Kern, one such Director of Resources (and Chief Finance Officer!), keeps using it in his letters and his minions keep typing it out in their ‘guidance’.

The purpose of a review is to ensure that the pensioner is receiving the correct injury pension, neither too little nor too much

Another question … what has the Goldilocks principle got to do with reviews of injury awards?

Answer … absolutely nothing.

A review can only look to see if there has been any substantial alteration…has the degree of disablement caused by the IOD injury substantially worsened or substantially improved since the previous review or retirement, whatever was last. If there is substantial change, your pension will be altered accordingly. Up or down.

  • If the award was too little and there has been no change, then it stays the same.
  • If the award was just right and there has been no change, then it stays the same.
  • If the award was too much and there has been no change, then it stays the same.

Or in words our Director of HR might understand; if mummy bear’s porridge was too hot before and it is still too hot now, you can’t add cold milk to make it ‘just right’.  If daddy bear’s porridge was too cold before and it is still too cold now, you can’t heat it in the microwave to make it ‘just right’.

Laws Appeal, paragraph 19

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

The level of the award is a given. It is decided once, when the award is originally granted, and there is no legal way for a police pension authority to adjust an award up or down because it is seen by an ignorant functionary to be, ‘too little or too much’. Quite the opposite – the result of all reviews is to provide a high level of certainty in the assessment of police injury pensions and not to waver as the wind blows.

What can’t be done in a review is any calculation to determine the current degree of disablement to enable the SMP,  or more often than not a HR minion, to compare this figure with that of the last decision.

Simpson, Paragraph 28

…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

Simpson, Paragraph 31

The Court of Appeal in Laws expressly approved the decision in Turner. Rejecting the submission made by Mr Pitt-Payne for the police authority to the effect that the starting point for the Board or the SMP is to consider the pensioner’s current degree of disablement and compare it with the previous assessment

So a calculation of any sort is unlawful.  If at a review the SMP pulls 3 jobs out of their rear end then they have contravened Simpson, Laws and the Regulations.

In both the Turner and Laws cases, it was accepted that the degree of a pensioner’s disablement could alter by virtue of his earning capacity improving either by some improvement in his medical condition or because a new job had become available, which the pensioner would be able to undertake, which was not available at the time of the last final decision.

Is it unlawful to use a review to perform any calculation to use as a comparison tool? Does Ursus Horribilis defecate in a deciduous forest biome?

So the Goldilocks principle is pure bear excrement. The only questions the SMP can answer are:

  •  Has there been any change in the disabling condition since the last review or decision? 


  • Are there now jobs available to which could be undertaken, but which had not previously been available?



Mr X

Mr X

“All cruelty springs from weakness.” -Seneca”
Clarissa Wild, Mr. X


If ever you think your former police service has your best intentions at heart when they are minded to ‘review’ your injury pension, then please consider the case of Mr X.

Mr X is a IOD pensioner who was retired from The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Policing is tough over there, but the Regulations concerning Injury on Duty awards across the Irish sea are essentially identical to those in and England & Wales.

Heed the wise words of the Pension Ombudsman:

Those cases have been concerned with the Police Injury Benefit Regulations for England and Wales, but the Northern Ireland Regulations mirror these and, therefore, the same principles can be expected to apply.”

Take note that the horrendous saga of maladministration we recount is not an outlier – similar injustice is happening now to dozens of former officers across the country and has the potential to envelope completely the lives of any person put under ‘review’.

Think on this if you are a Federation Rep or a SMP who is reading these words, perhaps tutting to yourself and thinking that we here at IODPA have the wrong end of the stick; that we are against the ‘system’ and ruining everything for every ‘legitimate IOD’.

Yes, that’s how too many Fed think:

‘play along to get along’;

‘don’t rock the boat’;

‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’;

‘You’ve had a good innings’;

‘Just give the doctor whatever he wants’ .

We don’t know which is worse, these pathetic cringing words of advice, or the more usual absence of any useful advice at all.

Well, Fed Reps,SMPs and all IOD pensioners, let us tell you about the 6 years and counting of legal hell suffered by Mr X just because he has an IOD award? Something similar is what all IOD pensioners risk facing if ever their HR Department comes calling with the intent of reviewing their injury pension.

PO-7548 1 Ombudsman’s Determination

Applicant Mr X Scheme Police Injury Benefit Scheme (Northern Ireland) Respondent(s) Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB)

Read the determination yourself here.

Mr X was retired in 1999.  His degree of disablement has been reviewed in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012.  Mr X has needed to complain about gross maladministration to the Pension Ombudsman 3 times and has had determinations made in his favour three times – in April 2013, April 2014 and September 2015.

It is horrific that any police pension authority could get things atrociously wrong again and again.

There is no such thing as a benign review – it rips people apart.

Consider for a moment, if you will, how this man has had what should have been a peaceful retirement shattered.  Over the past 16 years he has been summoned again and again to dance to the tune of the HR department only to be rolled over again and again by the unfeeling, deeply flawed machine of bureaucracy.

Shamefully, he has had to find the strength all by himself, alone, unaided, to undo the wrong visited upon him.  This struggle dominated his days and eroded what remained of his health.

We at IODPA reflect with sorrow that Mr X is a rarity. Very few IOD pensioners have the strength, determination and knowledge to make and follow through any sort of complaint. Alarmingly, we believe that the vast majority of IOD pensioners do not even realise there has been maladministration. Mr X is not a rarity in that respect. He is just one example of the victimisation and maltreatment – we would call it abuse – of former officers who were injured in the line of duty.

The reviews Mr X faced in 2009 and 2012 were found by the Pensions Ombudsman to have been unsound and Mr X was restored to the banding he was on in 2007.

In 2014 Mr X met the SMP, a Dr ‘D’, who apologised to Mr X for the errors the doctor had made and subsequently wrote to the police pension authority to state that in 2011 he had determined that Mr X was 100% disabled in relation to earning capacity.  Dr D said no apportionment should have been applied for either musculoskeletal problems or constitutional psychological factors.

In May 2014 Mr X then wrote to the police pension authority to demand a Regulatory reconsideration process to undo the errors.  His award has been bounced down and up but it has not been backdated for the periods he was unlawfully reduced. The money unlawfully taken from him had not been repaid. This person has been blighted by years of unlawful guff, things written about him, occupation health records appended to with ‘this and that’ of things that should be excluded and so  Mr X wanted to wipe the slate clean.  All those years wasted when he should have been on the correct banding from 2010 – 3 years after the 2007 review as scheduled by the police pension authority.

Now we get into the bizarre world of legal services and dark recess of the minds of those employed in HR departments.  The application of Mr X for a reconsideration was refused on the grounds that the Northern Ireland Police Board (NIPB) viewed that as the Pension Ombudsman had set aside or quashed the 2009 and 2012 decision there was nothing to reconsider and that Mr X should just have another review !

Do you detect a position of attrition here?  A strategy of belligerent attempts to win by wearing down the IOD to the point of collapse.  Delay, obfuscate and confuse rather than just do the right thing.  Even after the stages of the internal dispute resolution procedures, the NIPB repeatedly sought to avoid the opportunity to redeem itself.

Mr X can no more think another review will be performed without error than look out his window and see pink elephants taking to the skies.  The best thing for the NIPB would had been to allow Dr D to perform a reconsideration and to give Mr X the back dated payments he deserves.  But no – it took a third finding by the Pension Ombudsman to force the NIPB to begrudgingly start to do the right thing.

This is what a review can do to a person.  For every Fed Rep or NARPO Rep who thinks their force is kind and benevolent to their IODs, they need to read the case of Mr X.  Any IOD, anywhere, can find themselves caught up in the same unending nightmare.

Let’s not forget the large question mark which hovers over the matter of why Mr X has been reviewed so frequently since 1999.  Is he a criminal who has to attend meetings with his probation officer?  Does someone think he does not deserve his pension? Is he secretly earning a vast salary working for an International conglomerate? No. None of these things. He spends his days bravely trying to deal with his disability. So why is he treated like a criminal or an unworthy pauper petitioner to be hauled in to account for his sinful way of life to the local Watch Committee?

Mr X understandably has no confidence now in any review procedure. Thanks only to his determination and to the Pension Ombudsman he will now have his reconsideration.

After this he should be left alone to live his life in peace.

We sincerely hope that will be the case.


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.

Nothing to do with us

Nothing to do with us

“The ‘Somebody Else’s Problem’ field is much simpler and more effective, and what’s more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people’s natural disposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

Our “friends” at Avon and Somerset HR have declared they have to review injury pensions because the Home Office (HO) told them to do it.  A well-placed and always reliable source within the force tells us that certain people who should know better have stated the Home Office has directed forces to re-start reviews.

The reality is that after the PCC’s infamous letter, in which she tacitly declared that that former A&S officers with an Injury On Duty award were of no benefit to the people of Avon and Somerset, Carol Wood (the HR business manager) had a meeting with members of the HO Police Pension Team who effectively told her that case-law could not be superseded, that the pension regulations have to be followed and that the regulations do allow for a review, but only if a suitable interval has elapsed and with the belief  that the pensioners level of disability has altered. This all has to be considered on a case by case basis.

So what did A&S do? They chose 16 band fours all under 55 years of age. Let’s, for a moment, look at the figures and see whether the selection of the sixteen could have been on a case by case basis.

Of the 490 disabled former officers with an IOD award from A&S 347 are above 55 years of age, so 143 are under 55. For simplicity, just say the distribution between the 4 bands is uniform. Thus it could be said that 36 of those under 55 are band fours.

So the probability of  selecting a single band 4 who is under 55 is  7.35%
Therefore, the probability of randomly selecting 16 individuals who are each  on a band four and aged under 55 from the population of 490 is


By way of contrast, the probability to win the national lottery is 1 / 14million or 0.000000071429 !

Enough of the maths – the figures indicate very clearly that it was deliberate decision and not a fluke that the younger band fours were chosen. The probability of randomly selecting 16 individuals of the same banding and age group is so slim as to be practically impossible.

It seems obvious they were selected solely because they stand to be paid a band four pension for longer than older pensioners. Therefore, HR have targeted them because they represent the best opportunity to save money.

The recent letter from the Home Office, below, tells us that the HO office have not directed any force to review.


It categorically declares that their position is:

  • reviews must be done on a case by case basis,
  • reviews at specific age points was declared unlawful,
  • Reviews must consider each case on its merits and take into account the circumstances of the individual.

The conclusion is clear: Avon & Somerset – and any force which targets a narrow selection – is acting contrary to the advice of the HO. And is breaking the law. The HO knows that such a targeted campaign is unlawful. The HO got a severe kicking in the High Court over its unlawful guidance in Annex C to HO circular 46/2004, which they allude to in the above letter. They are not willing to take any more flak so are saying in a roundabout way, that if the police pension authority cocks things up then its on them.

So A&S … it’s all on you. Don’t take injury pensioners for fools. Don’t pretend that the Home Office has told you to conduct reviews, or has encouraged you to hold reviews. It didn’t. You alone made the decision to hold reviews because you thought that disabled former officers would be a soft target for your money-saving ambitions. You deliberately picked on the most severely disabled, the most vulnerable and have treated them with contempt.

The PCC said they were of no worth to the citizens of Avon and Somerset, but you thought they were worth something, but only in terms of saving money by reducing their pensions.

Tell them everything or say nothing

Tell them everything or say nothing

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
Elbert Hubbard

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”
George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such

A person undergoing a DWP assessment for benefits needs to provide evidence they are still entitled to that benefit. If they don’t do this then the DWP investigator has the power to remove said benefit.

An Injury on Duty award isn’t a benefit and can not be removed. If there is substantial change in the degree of disablement then the award can be revised, but it can never be stopped. There is no investigator or benefit claim. Nothing can be revoked or cancelled. When a review is held a police pension authority is to consider the sole question of, ‘is there any substantial alteration?’ Only If there is evidence which indicates there may be a substantial alteration then must the authority refer for decision the question of degree of disablement to a duly qualified medical practitioner.

On their fishing trip to elicit a response from IOD pensioners, Avon & Somerset tried to bluff that if they didn’t disclose any information requested, (such as how many cars you drive!) then they could stop the injury award (which they can’t) or prosecute you for providing misleading or inaccurate information (which would be something they might well regret trying).

Here’s the nasty little threat they sent to vulnerable disabled former officers, all  of whom have to bear the burden of very severe disablement.


This supposed threat of prosecution was queried with a FOI request:

The force provided a classic example of corporate blather in response.

“The statement has been on the questionnaire relating to injury awards since 2003 (arising from a meeting of the Attendance Management Group held on 9 October 2002). The statement reflects the details included in the questionnaires provided by Essex and Sussex Police at that time and agreed with the Federation in January 2003.

The statement is intended to clarify that there are possible consequences should a former officer either omit information which is relevant to the consideration of the injury award and/or purposely provides misleading information which could possibly be fraudulent.

If the statement is not signed, it does not halt the review process, but if the details were found be fraudulent due consideration would be given to the next appropriate steps. It may be helpful to note that this statement has never needed to be actioned to date.”

This sinister, and wholly unfounded threat came from a police force,  for crying out loud !!

Threatening injured former officers with an invented prosecution?

Why would any IOD pensioner think themselves obliged to cooperate with a HR Department that thinks it can treat people like this?

What do the Regulations say about not engaging with a review?

The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 Regulation 33

  1. If a question is referred to a medical authority under regulation 30, 31 or 32 and the person concerned wilfully or negligently fails to submit himself to such medical examination or to attend such interviews as the medical authority may consider necessary in order to enable him to make his decision, then

(a) if the question arises otherwise than on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the police authority may make their determination on such evidence and medical advice as they in their discretion think necessary;

(b) if the question arises on an appeal to a board of medical referees, the appeal shall be deemed to be withdrawn.

The interpretation of this is that if you deliberately don’t turn up for an assessment by the SMP then the force is allowed to make a decision based on such evidence and medical advice that they think is necessary.

That’s it. No reduction or suspension of injury award.

If you decide to attend for assessment by the SMP, but also decide to refuse to agree to full disclosure of medical records, back to birth, confining agreement to release of only records made since the last decision on degree of disablement, then you have complied, albeit with conditions.

The SMP and the force might not think you have been as cooperative as they wish.

In either circumstance – complete refusal to engage in what we know is a mockery of what should be a lawful process, or limited, conditional cooperation – then the force might, if they are daft enough, try to use regulation 33.

Their first problem though would be to satisfy the stringent test of ‘wilfully or negligently’. This is a high hurdle to jump and a hard condition to prove. How could any IOD pensioner be said to be wilfully or negligently refusing to engage with a process which he or she has very good reason to believe is unlawful? That is more than enough of a rational reason for refusal.

Their second problem would be trying to make a determination on such evidence and medical advice as they could obtain. The force seems to have lost or destroyed a lot of files and even if they have a full set most of them will contain information which has not been added to for many years. What evidence could there be of any alteration in degree of disablement?

The force can only use factual information – your notes when you retired for instance – to prove that there is a case for substantial alteration. They can’t pull a fresh assessment out of thin air as this inevitably revisits causation and apportionment and is forbidden. The High Court says so.

If there is no evidence of a substantial alteration in your degree of disablement then the status quo continues, no alteration means no revision of injury pension.

Instead of politely enquiring with pensioners whether their medical condition resultant from the duty injury had improved or worsened substantially over the intervening years since the last time degree of disablement was decided, the force thought it best to ask sneaky, irrelevant questions in the hope that it might provide cover for what was a predetermined decision to conduct a full review involving referral to a duly qualified medical practitioner.

When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim. An argument from ignorance occurs when either a proposition is assumed to be true because it has not yet been proved false (no evidence of change so the condition must have improved) or a proposition is assumed to be false because it has not yet been proved true.

This has the effect of shifting the burden of proof to the person criticizing the proposition, but is not valid reasoning.

You don’t have to tell HR or the SMP what car you drive, how you spend your day, what you submitted on your last HMRC return. The evidence required to determine alteration in degree of disablement is medical. If a SMP wants to know whether you are able to drive despite your disability, then he should ask you straightforwardly and not rely on information obtained under threat by the HR Department.

HR or the SMP have no power to try to get you to tell them your life story. What you did before the time of the last final decision is not relevant to the task in hand, which is only to look for any alteration in degree of disablement. What if the SMP takes an innocent comment out of context? You then find yourself fighting a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, and illogical game of trying to prove there is no alteration to your medical condition, whereas the burden of proof of any change is the responsibility of the SMP.

Just imagine, if you will, what might happen if you get notification that you will be reviewed. You might feel impelled to ask HR, why me? why now? What makes you think my condition has improved or worsened? Instead of an honest answer, namely that they intend to review everybody so as to try to see if they can save some money, you get the usual glib response from HR, claiming they have a right or a duty to review, blah, blah, blah. They are determined to review you and justifying their reason does not concern them. Giving a reason is not something we do. Don’t ask again or we will treat you as being vexatious, you cheeky bastard.  So you comply: you sign consent for partial disclosure of medical records. You might decide to refuse to answer their loaded questions on the questionnaire, for after all, you didn’t fill in a questionnaire when you were retired so how can they compare the here and now to the past with a new set of answers?

You then get a date to see a SMP. You turn up, wish the good doctor a pleasant hello and sit twiddling your thumbs. You answer whatever query of medical fact the doctor wishes to talk about but only concerning your medical records relating to duty injury and decline to answer anything you think is not relevant.

A review is not the Spanish Inquisition and an SMP is not supposed to behave like Tomas de Torqemada. It is not for you to prove you continue to qualify for the amount of injury pension you receive: it is for the force to determine whether or not there has been any alteration in your degree of disablement. It needs a substantial alteration before an injury pension can be revised.

It my well be that some of you think that full, unquestioning, cooperation is just fine – that you know you are not any better and you trust the SMP and HR and those that pull their strings to stick to the Regulations and case law and that everything will be just fine and dandy.

Sorry to say, that has not been the experience of most of the IOD pensioners who so far have been assessed by a SMP.  With the notable exception of those who saw Dr Jo Judge they all report abrasive and intrusive interviews, delving into areas which have nothing to do with determining whether there was any alteration. Most have not had a decision months after the event, and the SMP is trying to blame them for the delay.

So, it is up to you. Go along with a process which has about as much in common with a lawful review as does a rotten cabbage to a slice of apple pie, or give partial, conditional cooperation, or do you downright refuse to have anything to do with people who prefer to offer threats rather than ask honest questions, and who are happy to put you in front of a doctor who seems to know little about the Regulations and whose bedside manner would do justice to the little old ladies who used to knit as the guillotine did its grisly work.

What can they do if you refuse to cooperate? Downband you because they haven’t got any evidence that there is any substantial change and they feel you’ve been less then helpful? Not according to regulation 33 they can’t.

Pensioners accept that a police pension authority can hold reviews. But when reviews are not held lawfully, and when pensioners are not treated with dignity and respect, and are threatened and treated with contempt, then we need to remind ourselves that an injury pension is a right, enshrined in legislation, agreed by successive Governments, and is compensation for injury received on duty. It is not a State benefit, which we have to prove our continuing right to receive. It is part of the quid pro quo of police work. We readily put ourselves in harm’s way, and we held up our part of the bargain to the extreme extent of being damaged in body or mind, only to see some weasel with an eye on the balance sheet pressure ignorant and untrained HR types, and venal SMPs into abusing us, and the Regulations. Meanwhile, Nero fiddles as Rome burns.

The simple truth is that the drafters of the Regulations intended that reviews should only be held rarely – ‘at such interval as may be suitable’, is what they wrote. The status quo should be that no review is contemplated. When circumstances change, then a review might be appropriate. What we see in Avon and Somerset is a mind-set which thinks that a sizeable number of IOD pensioners are somehow not entitled to their pension, and that leads to the belief in certain quarters that no regard whatever need by given to the suitability or appropriateness of arranging a review in each individual instance, and no concern need be given to the health-damaging effects of putting vulnerable disabled people through the meat grinder of an unlawful process

Substantial Alteration

Substantial Alteration

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents: Volume 1 Paperback: 001

A review of an Injury on Duty is an antonym to a Department of Work of Pensions assessment.  The latter is concerned with capability to work – it is often called a Work Capability Assessment.  It’s purpose is to determine whether disabled welfare claimants are entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.  It is a claimed benefit.

An Injury on Duty award is primarily an award for life in compensation for an injury sustained whilst on duty.  On-duty being defined as the following:

(a) the member concerned received the injury while on duty or while on a journey necessary to enable him to report for duty or return home after duty, or

(b) he would not have received the injury had he not been known to be a constable, or

(c) the police authority are of the opinion that the preceding condition may be satisfied and that the injury should be treated as one received in the execution of duty.

It’s easy to keep repeating that the regulations state that the injury pension (award) is unaltered unless a substantial alteration is proved.  But what is substantial alteration?

David Scoffield QC raises this point in his report

“Broadly speaking, there appears to be two approaches to the interpretation of this word in case-law dealing with it in other contexts: that is to say, either that it means not insubstantial or other than de minimis; or that it means significant or large.

“It is a known tactic that SMPs deliberately put people 1% above the neighbouring lowest banding in order to make it ‘easier’ for them to claim an alteration significant enough to reduce an award .Slight amendments to banding levels reducing from 26% to 25%, which could hardly be deemed substantial yet costs the individual affected thousands of pounds per annum.”

Scoffield cuts through this deviousness of the Police Pension Authorities and the SMP:  

 1%-2%, which would otherwise not be considered to be a substantial alteration in the degree of disablement, might be considered to be a “substantial alteration” requiring revision of an IOD pension under regulation [37] simply because the percentage calculation happened to be on the borderline of two of the applicable bands. It seems to me illogical to say that such an alteration is substantial when, for instance, a percentage change of 20% or more would not be considered to be substantial, simply because the magnitude of change happens to be incorporated within one banding.”

So lets piece all of this together.  An example 6% drop for a band four originally on 80% is not significant or substantial by itself, so the reduction to band three is not permissible.  A 1% drop that straddles band 2 and band 3 is not substantial and no revision is permitted.

But arguing over the semantics of single figure percentages totally misses the whole-point – THE REVIEW SHOULD NOT HAVE OCCURRED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

For a review to progress to a SMP, there must be some change in circumstance. The PPA must ‘consider’ whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered, with evidence of an improvement or a worsening, in the medical condition resulting from the duty injury.  And that is the crux of it.

Substantial alteration is based on a comparator of the ‘here and now’ to the last decision.  Unlike an ATOS assessment it is not a measure of capability and entitlement, it is a measure of whether anything has changed – substantially.  Without any substantial alteration, it can not undo a generous award or uplift a miserly one.  If the person could work then and can work now, there is no change, irrelevant of the band previously awarded. No alteration to the medical condition, no change.  The status-quo does not amount to substantial change.  Managing a condition does not amount to substantial change.  A Police Pension Authority trying to rewrite history because medically retiring officers suited it’s recruitment policy does not amount to substantial change, nor does a PCC with a zealous chief finance officer.

If a tweak to a percentage is not permitted and a Lazarus type cure for a medical condition is unlikely to bordering ‘beyond impossible’ so what else can be classed as substantial change? Let’s discuss hypothetical new jobs that didn’t exist previously:  George Aldrich, Nasa’s “chief sniffer”  is a new position, but it’s filled. And it is arguably too similar to any other ‘taster’ say of wine or coffee; in any case when he’s not sniffing space dust he is a laboratory technician  – a job that has definitely been around for most of the modern era.  Space suit designer couldn’t be called a new job as it has too many overlaps with the existing position of a tailor.

It is hoped that the reader can see the tacit  finality of an award. A review is a rigorous and exceedingly stressful undertaking with a high standard to be able to revise it  – the regulations define it as an injury pension not a benefit.  The corruption that has allowed Police Pension Authorities to chip away at someone’s award by slowly reducing the percentage figure is not only unlawful but a horrendous breach of trust.

A Suitable Interval

A Suitable Interval

“Once obsolete, an automobile is thrown to the scrap heap. Once here and gone, the human life has likewise served its purpose. If it has been a good life, it has been sufficient. There is no need for another.”
Luther Burbank

There is life after being medically retired with an Injury on Duty award.  There are new opportunities and experiences available that were not remotely imaginable whilst serving. Losing a vocation through no default of your own is hard enough and trying to rebuild a life with a disability  is a trial of Hercules … but it is possible and the rewards are there to be taken.

But how difficult is it to build a semblance of normality when you are constantly placed on a carousel of continuous reviews?  Reviews that have been instigated with an ulterior purpose  to reduce the award to the lowest permissible band as soon as possible.  Are you now a member of the public or are you still under the umbrella of a disciplined serviced with the compulsion to respond to an order of a review on the whim of the Police Pension Authority (PPA)?  How can you progress when there is an interruption of a zealous and watchful eye looking for any change even though any progress and improvement could be short lived and ephemeral.

Is a review 6 months post retirement suitable?  What about 18 months?  5 years?

A 6 month timeline may possibly be appropriate for a person with a band one or two degree of disablement to see if the condition has deteriorated perhaps, giving time to find some sort of employment and if none if forthcoming and  there is substantial worsening to the medical condition then the award can be revised upwards.

But a 6 month interval invoked by the PPA to see if the person is in any employment is not appropriate as a band two award states that the degree of disablement is between 25% and 50% so it can be expected that some capacity to earn is possible, so what is the purpose of a review after such a short period?  What happens if the review triggers a relapse of PTSD and the stress of a review combined with the difficulties of starting a new working life post being a police officer,  causes the mental illness to manifest more strongly and the employment is lost as a result – the paradox of a worsening of the index injury but with recent employment will not be viewed favourable by the PPA, with  their closed minded and misguided intent to reduce their financial commitments surely thinking the latter trumps the former.  Therefore a fair and suitable interval could be a further 6 months into the employment, once things have settled down for the former officer and the the employment is established.  An IOD award is for life and the peaks and troughs do not give an excuse for a knee jerk reaction by the PPA to change a statutory award.  Ultimately the finality and a stability of an award is undermined by the PPA’s determination to ‘prove’ the original decision wrong; that is the singular purpose of a review as seen by the PPA – always to reduce, never to increase. **

**note:  The two above paragraphs, although reality in a pragmatic sense, falls into the same trap that SMPs often stumble into  – “lets give a banding as a punt and then get the chap in a few months to see if I got it right”.  The regulations are apathetic to whether employment materialises or not.  The capacity to earn does not tally with actual employment or earnings; both are irrelevant to a person’s capacity … the terms ‘economically inactive’, ‘under-employed’ and ‘over-qualified’ alludes to this fact.  The bottom line is that the SMP makes a final decision of the degree of disablement and only substantial alteration can justify a review.  There is nothing in the regulations that allows for a ‘suck it and see’ approach. Once made a decision to the banding is final.  The SMP has no room to think he might get it wrong – he makes the award in the here and now.  An un-appealed IOD award banding once given is right by its nature of being given, and can only be ‘undone’ by a regulation 32 reconsideration.

If the person’s wellbeing is in the forefront of their mind then a review after 6 months is not the answer.  Why not ask a welfare officer of the Federation to check in with the former officer?  Ask how they are coping, suggest to the person that if their condition has deteriorated then they can self-refer themselves for a review, in their own time and  when they feel strong enough to face such a daunting  prospect.

What about a review every 2 years?  Is that a suitable interval?  Not if you are a band four with a severe degree of disablement of earning capacity.  If a review takes up to 6 months to complete then a review every 2 years will mean that in a decade you will have spent a full 2 years ‘under review’.  Intolerable to be living a  life that way.

Fundamentally  the timing of a review needs to be  dependant on the individual’s circumstances.  The timing of subsequent reviews requires a judgement by the PPA to allow the former officer to live before being reminded of a past life.  If after 5 years there is no change to the circumstances of a band four then arguably there is a strong case for no further reviews in that person’s lifetime.  If nothing has improved after 5 years, then what can change in the autumn years of that person’s life?

The answer to these conundrums is to ask questions of the PPA. Whenever notified that a review is to be arranged, the first response of any pensioner should always be to ask, Why? Why me, Why now? Get the PPA to qualify its interpretation of a suitable interval. Chances are that the PPA (in reality some bod in HR) will not have given it a moment’s thought. Explain to the HR bod that ‘suitable’ infers that the interval must be right and appropriate for each individual. Ask them to explain their understanding of what constitutes a suitable interval, in general terms, and in the particular circumstances of your case. Ask if they have a policy, or a procedure for considering if a suitable interval has passed. If the PPA can’t answer the questions, then arguably the legitimacy of the review fails on the first hurdle.

It has been the habit of forces to think they have unlimited power to hold a review whenever they liked. Some even set up schedules or programmes when reviews would be conducted. As mentioned, others have a policy – reviews every two years, or five years. Tellingly, and ultimately fatal to all who claim that regular reviews are a ‘duty’ there is nowhere to hide from a history of having either held no reviews or having told people they would never be reviewed. It is as legal, and as legitimate, for someone to decide there will be no more reviews as it is, when done properly, for a PPA to decide to hold a review. They can’t claim a duty to review when it is evidential that they have not held reviews. They can’t have it both ways.

Let David Scoffield, QC have the last word. He is the eminent Queens Council who was commissioned by the Policing Board of Northern Ireland to look into the administration (shouldn’t that be maladministration?) of police injury pensions that side of the water, where the Regulations are pretty much identical to ours.

He recommended:

‘There should be a move away from automatic review for all cases at any fixed interval set in policy. The judgment as to when a review is appropriate should be made on a more case-sensitive basis, driven particularly by medical advice on this issue from the SMP and/or IMR (although it ought to remain open to an officer to request a review himself at any time and the Board should also retain the right to initiate a review at any time if information comes to its attention identifying an apparent relevant change in circumstances). SMPs and IMRs should expressly be asked to provide the Board with advice on this issue in their completion of reports.’

Fishy Business or When a Review Should Stop

Fishy Business or When  a Review Should Stop

Fishing Expedition
· Examples· Word Origin

noun, Informal.

1. a legal proceeding mainly for the purpose of interrogating an adversary, or of examining his or her property and documents, in order to gain useful information.

2. any inquiry carried on without any clearly defined plan or purpose in the hope of discovering useful information.

So, imagine you are a well paid, supposedly professional and experienced HR manager, (let’s say you have the initials of CJ), who knows the difference between a haddock and a kipper, who has been given orders from your Business Manager (with perhaps the initials of CW), who in turn has had instruction from the Chief Finance Officer and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

You have been tasked to send review notifications out to disabled former officers who have had no contact from the force since retiring due to injury on duty for at least a minimum of 12 years ago and some, in fact most, who have been out of the job for 15 to 20 years. You’ve been told to start a programme of reviewing injury pensions, beginning with those which have the potential to cost the most over the long term. According to the bean counters, who have less knowledge than even you of the Regulations governing police injury pensions, these are the pensions which offer the tempting best prospect of providing the greatest savings – if only a way can be found to reduce the payments. It might take a bit of imagination, but let’s say, for instance, that you could get a patsy in the form of a ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’ who would be prepared, in return for a fat fee of around £500 a time, to find a way around the ethics of the medical profession and the Regulations and declare that this person and that person has had a miraculous substantial improvement in their disability. Bingo! Kerching! Three cherries in a row! Done up like a kipper!

You know nothing about these disabled former officers, as in many instances no personnel records exist, having been destroyed due to the force’s retention policy. And there’s no way you are allowed to view the occupational health records due to an irritating little impediment called the Data Protection Act. You can’t quite understand why anyone would object to letting you read all about their private personal medical history. Patient confidentiality – it’s a bugger, (shame that). You only know these people are on band four so are severely disabled in regards to earning capacity. The fact that some may have mental illness such that that the stress of a review could send them into a catastrophic life changing adverse reaction. Tough, you think, much as did the train driver to Belsen-Bergen, I’ve got a job to do, and by golly I’ll do it no matter who objects.

Do you pause for a moment and think that it might be appropriate to ask the force medical officer to review the medical notes the force does have, to see if a review is in fact appropriate? No, that would be the right thing to do, but you’ve got targets imposed on you by the higher powers. The train is in motion and you can’t stop it – more than your job is worth – someone else’s responsibility. You may have even been told that everyone retired with an injury on duty award are earning 6 figure salaries and driving Porche Cayennes and ought to be reviewed – how dare they be retired on an ‘award’ you might think.

So you send the letters out. But not before you spice the letters up and say you are reviewing the recipient due to the financial constraints to the force is under. Nothing like telling them your agenda from the start. As an added incentive to make the pensioners take your cunning plan seriously, you throw in a questionnaire which asks them how many cars they drive and how much they earn and threatens them with either prosecution if they make an error with their answers or reduction or suspension of their injury award if they mess you about. Never mind there is no lawful way of doing that – they won’t know as they are just dumb ex-cops. And, oh, while I am at it, can I have your signed permission to contact the DHS and HMRC so I can get to see how much money you have?

You realise that you might be onto a sticky wicket when the former officers start asking questions. Like, why are we being reviewed now? You have ignored me and my welfare for the last twenty years so why the sudden interest? Where is the individual case by case objectivity? You give out some baloney about a SMP will look at your medical records and decide whether a review is actually required (whilst crossing your fingers behind your back), fully aware that your pet stooge SMP fully intends to interrogate every single one of them without exception no matter what they say.

Despite having no circumstances to justify a review, no evidence to indicate whether there has been any improvement in any individual’s degree of disablement, no evidence of the substantial alteration needed by law before an injury pension can be revised, you know that your SMP will find the ‘evidence’ by hook or by crook. He’ll even try to con his way into getting agreement to let him look at medical records that date from birth to see if he can give his expert opinion that the back injury was given by the midwife’s forceps, not during the reported polacc.

But you come across a problem. You’ve made someone extremely ill as a direct response of your actions. Someone who has just been trying to survive for the past 15 years, barely hanging on to life by their fingernails and who can’t deal with the process. If you’d got the force medical officer to read the notes beforehand you would had known that this person’s health is in such a delicate state that he is unreviewable. Nevertheless, you think that what you haven’t bothered to look into you can’t be blamed for, so you demand he attends the occupational health unit and you get your SMP to grill him like a turbot for 90 minutes anyway.

The mental anguish of someone already suffering from PTSD means they are unable to deal with abnormal events such as a review. The experience is so traumatic that after the grilling by the SMP they have to go to the community mental health crisis team. The relapse is huge and his clinicians write to you to say this person is no better this year than he was last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. In fact, the duty injury ruined his life and his health and your review is making things worse. But you wouldn’t know, because you and your predecessors have not bothered to enquire after him or to ask him how he is coping. This person is borderline suicidal. Clinicians write to you some more, pleading for you to back off. But you and your tame SMP are adamant that just because an expert psychologist says someone has deteriorated there is no reason to believe it.

So you’ve waited a year since first notifying the intention to review and 6 months since dragging this person before the SMP. He must be stewed enough now you think. You have a brainwave. Send him a letter saying he is too ill to be reviewed now but you’ll postpone the review for 3 months until there is some improvement. Yes that’ll do it. If these people aren’t better then we will wait until they are better! Brilliant! No matter how long that takes I’ll keep the review open until I get the result I want. Why ever end a review with a decision when we can keep a review going for infinity? Don’t have to bother with a suitable interval or a PMAB appeal this way, I will surely get my bonus this year, you think, and maybe some recognition from the HR professional associations. Sheer HR genius – I ought to write up a presentation on this to give to the next meeting of the NAMF. Nothing fishy about that.

Note: This is a true story and the protagonist HR professional is employed by Avon & Somerset Constabulary.

NB: The sassy gallows humour tone of this post is a front to cope with the true fiendish actions of HR. It is no way intended to lessen, or be disrespectful of, the horrendous affect it is all having on the former officer mentioned.

What they know …

What they know …

Do you know what is in your occupational health?  Could there be a memo. a letter or some handwritten notes that show that the force did not act within their lawful duty when they made the decision to retire you?

It is foolhardy to attend a review they have instigated upon you without knowing what information they have on you beforehand.  A Subject Access Request (SAR) under the Data Protection Act is a method to get full disclosure of personnel records and occupational health files and should be the first action if ever called to a review of your injury on  duty award

Once submitted with a form of identification (such as a photocopy of a passport)  and a £10 cheque, you should receive within 40 days the required information. Then you will not be entering the process blind.  Indeed there may be something within the file that indicates that any previous decisions were unsound.

A template letter can be found here:

There is nothing stopping you from putting in a SAR once notified they are starting a review process and then another SAR once the review has completed.  The second request should specify all handwritten notes made by SMP during the assessment.

You might also discover that they have destroyed your personnel file under some internal  retention policy.  If so it can be argued how they are going to compare your skill set when they have no record of what skills you gained during your service.