Staffordshire

A Tale Of Two Forces

A Tale Of Two Forces

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

— Her Honour Judge Belcher

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The case report of Boskovic is available for scrutiny here.

Boskovic-V-Chief-Constable-Staffordshire-Police

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chief Constable explained her refusal thus:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Iqbal concluded in April 2018,

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

 

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 takes place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019.

We often associate the word ‘bedlam’ with raving madness and chaos, whilst forgetting that it derives from the name of a hospital, Bethlem, which was established in 1247 in London.

Now called the Bethlem Royal Hospital, it is a well-regarded psychiatric hospital providing a wide range of clinical services for people with mental health and / or substance misuse problems. Its history is, however, very colourful and is perhaps a microcosm of how mental illness has been viewed, and treated, over the centuries.

As far back as the middle of the sixteenth century, friends and relatives were allowed to visit the ‘inmates’, not least to bring food and other essentials for their survival. Public and casual visitors with no connection to the inmates were also routinely allowed in. It would be easy to think that there was entertainment to be had in viewing the extraordinary behaviours of the mentally ill, but the original rationale behind allowing the public access was rooted in financial considerations.

The governors of the hospital aimed to encourage ‘people of note and quallitie’ to visit and be moved by moral benevolence to make generous donations to aid the running of the hospital. They succeeded in this aim, but it soon became obvious that visitors came mostly for the entertainment value. What drew the visitors was, “the frisson of the freakshow” where Bethlem was “a rare Diversion” to cheer and amuse. It became one of a series of destinations on the London tourist trail which included such sights as the Tower, the Zoo, Bartholemew Fair, London Bridge and Whitehall.

Attitudes to mental illness have shifted somewhat since those dark days, and in generally the right direction. But within the police service it seems there may still be a mountain to climb.

A recent study of almost 17,000 police across the UK found that 95% of officers had been exposed to traumatic events, almost all of which were work-related. Civilian staff too were affected, with  67% of operational police staff reporting they had experienced trauma.

The study showed that 20% of the respondents reported symptoms which were typically experienced by sufferers of PTSD or complex PTSD.

Disturbingly, some 66% of respondents were unaware they might be suffering from PTSD or other anxiety related illness.

The study appears to indicate a widespread lack of awareness by senior managers of the presence of mental health problems among officers and staff.

Gill Scott-Moore, chief executive of Police Care UK, the charity which funded the research, has said,

The service has real challenges around recognising and responding to the signs and symptoms of trauma exposure and is heavily reliant upon generic NHS provision that isn’t equipped for the specialist treatment needed.

 

 

View the study here

 

 

Meanwhile, in April a national police wellbeing service was launched. Branded as ‘Oscar Kilo’ (OK) it is funded by a £7.5 million investment from the Government through the Department of Health. Chief Constable Andy Rhodes of Lancashire Constabulary heads up the new initiative. He announces on the Oscar Kilo web site that it

. . . was created and designed to host the Blue Light Wellbeing Framework and bring together those who are responsible for wellbeing. It is a place to share learning and best practice from across emergency and blue light services so organisations can invest the very best into the wellbeing of their staff.

 

 

Find the Blue Light Wellbeing Framework here

 

 

Elsewhere, between 2015 and 2019 MIND, the mental health charity, had thousands of volunteers across the emergency services actively challenging stigma, and learning more about mental health. The charity says they made positive changes for themselves and colleagues and the charity learned how organisations can improve mental health support, tackle stigma and increase workplace wellbeing.

 

Blue li

 

Back in January 2017, Police Oracle, the online publication which covers policing matters, launched its ‘Blueprint  Campaign’. Under that banner Police Oracle says it,

. . . accuses the government of failing to meet its obligation of protecting our officers both in the job and particularly, when they have been forced out of the service because of physical injuries or mental trauma.

 

Read the announcement here

 

 

It’s of some significance to note that only the Police Oracle initiative makes any mention of the thousands of former officers who were ‘forced out of the job’ as a result of disabling injury whilst on duty. Once out, their forces have generally done nothing to assist them in overcoming their disabilities. In some forces, quite the opposite. Some forces have instead chosen to hound and harass disabled former officers by a misplaced enthusiasm for conducting ‘reviews’ of their degree of disablement – an enthusiasm driven entirely by a callous desire and foolhardy expectation of easing the pressure on force budgets.

IODPA’s constantly growing membership includes serving officers who are on the cusp of retirement due to injury on duty. Their accounts reveal just how inadequate are the levels of training and awareness of mental health among line managers and more senior officers, as well as civilian staff. The accounts of pensioners are also extremely harrowing, and lay bare the true state of affairs, which is that in some forces no regard or concern is shown for the impact on them of reviews and of the financial uncertainty and anxiety engendered by the prospect of repeated reviews continuing over their lifetimes.

All of IODPA’s members have suffered, and continue to suffer, with a diversity of injuries incurred in the course of performing their ordinary duties. Many of those injuries are of the mind. Notably, depression and PTSD feature highly on the list, but the entire spectrum of anxiety disorders are represented.

In some cases, mental injury is the sole recorded ‘duty injury’ but members who have only physical injuries recorded as ‘duty injury’ also experience resulting mental damage. Hence, it is unusual to find anyone who has been retired with an injury pension who has not suffered some form of mental illness, at some level.

IODPA is pleased to see a greater emphasis on safeguarding the mental health of officers and staff, but is disappointed to see no official government-led initiatives to improve the situation of former officers with psychiatric damage who are retired on an injury pension.

We suggest this shortcoming urgently needs to be addressed. There is a need to start at the top, with the senior managers of forces. Chief Constables have the office of Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’) and are responsible for making all the decisions concerning the injury award scheme. Some of them, thankfully currently only a handful, are actively harming disabled former officers through abuses of the injury pension regulations.

We could fill many pages here with examples of truly appalling behaviour by individuals who clearly have absolutely no comprehension of the need to apply  care and compassion to any dealings with disabled former officers with psychiatric damage. We know, from a study of force management of ill health retirements, injury on duty awards and police medical appeal boards overseen by Chief Constable Morgan and sponsored by  the College of Policing, that,

Many forces are struggling due to the lack of expertise within their organisations.’ and, ‘The structure of some force HR facilities do not support the management of the process… and …issues are compounded by a lack of dedicated subject matter experts across the service and training opportunities.

 

What concerns our members is that whilst the inadequacies highlighted by Mr Morgan can be addressed, unless positive and impactful action is taken to significantly change attitudes towards mental illness and injury, then disabled former officers, and officers about to retire due to mental illness or injury, will continue to suffer at the hands of the likes of Mr Morgan. For it is Mr Morgan, in our opinion, who is spectacularly failing in his duty of care for his disabled former officers.

Mr Morgan is not alone in his unawareness, but it is Mr Morgan who has given us the most glaring example of how bad things can be when senior managers fail to understand how to engage with people who are suffering mental health damage. We have reported elsewhere, in earlier blogs, on the situation in Staffordshire, where Mr Morgan is Chief Constable and Police Pension Authority. He wished to conduct mass reviews of the degree of disablement of injury on duty pensioners. When deficiencies and alleged unlawful procedures in the process, as applied by Mr Morgan’s staff, were brought to his attention he reacted in a way which could only possibly be the result of deep ignorance of mental health issues.

He ‘invited’ a number of those pensioners under review to a meeting in summer of 2018. He could have arranged a neutral disabled-friendly environment to meet, listen and discuss issues with those who had raised concerns about the way review process was being conducted. Instead he announced he would be holding the said meeting, at police headquarters,
to which pensioners – all disabled in some way or another, – were invited. His invitation reads
more like a summons.

Here are the original blogs –

https://iodpa.org/2018/07/13/chief-constable-morgan-sends-letters-to-vulnerable-pensioners/

and

https://iodpa.org/2018/07/23/cc-morgan-refuses-pensioners-legal-representatives-to-attend-a-meeting/

Mr Morgan described the proposed meeting thus: ‘The meeting is to explain the next stage of the process.’ There could not have been a clearer indication that the meeting would never be about clearing the air through informed discussion.

When pensioners asked if their legal representatives could attend, and were met with a refusal, the pensioners all decided there would be no point in attending if Mr Morgan wished to use the meeting only to ‘explain’ what he intended to do. Pensioners felt they would be exposed to pressure in the anxiety-inducing environment of police headquarters.

In our opinion, Mr Morgan’s actions seem to be those of a man who is by instinct adversarial and dogmatic. They appear to be the actions of a man who cares more about defending a flawed process into which he has inserted allegedly unlawful demands, rather than caring for the health and wellbeing of disabled former officers. They seem to be the actions of a man who wishes to hear no other views than his own.

His force is now facing a legal challenge to his decision to reduce the pensions of the seventeen pensioners who questioned his review process. It may cost the force many tens of  thousands of pounds and will do nothing to foster good relationships with injury on duty pensioners.

Just as Bethlem became bedlam and a meme for historically inappropriate mental health care, so too has the ‘review’ provision within the police injury benefit scheme regulations become, in the hands of the likes of Mr Morgan and a few others, a meme for the entrenched institutional insensitivity and disregard for disabled former officer’s mental health.

Bethlem reformed itself over the years and became a shining example of modern healthcare. We have to hope that the police service and the government will do more than announce initiatives and studies and will take positive and far-reaching action to eradicate the negative attitudes exemplified by Mr Morgan and others who we have identified and named in these blogs.

Staffordshire Police Put The Brakes On

Staffordshire Police Put The Brakes On

Whoa!!!

— [Anonymous] command to stop or slow down, usually horse or vehicle

We have breaking news…

Staffordshire’s Chief Constable, Mr Morgan, has thrown the gears of his review truck into reverse.

A few weeks ago Mr Morgan took the extraordinary step of deciding that failure by IOD pensioners to allow access to their medical records amounted to a failure to attend a medical interview or examination. His stance was that full access to medical records was a necessary step in any medical examination or interview.

Seventeen of our members had received letters just four weeks prior to Christmas from Mr Morgan advising that because they had refused access to their medical records he would be reducing their injury pensions and the reductions would be backdated, indicating that they would also claw back the money from the affected pensioners.

Mr Morgan’s decision was robustly challenged by Ron Thompson and Mark Botham of Haven Solicitors, and Mark Lake of Cartwright King Solicitors, acting on behalf of the IOD pensioners concerned.

Pensioners have now heard from Mr Morgan’s solicitors that he, in his role as Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’), accepts that the letters notifying pensioners of his decision to reduce their pensions,

. . . did not sufficiently explain the reasons for the decisions. Further, the decisions should not in the circumstances have had retrospective effect.

 

Our solicitors have been told that Mr Morgan,

. . . proposes to provide each of the proposed Claimants with further decision letters, containing a fuller explanation of the reasons for the decision taken in each case…

 

Meanwhile no reductions in injury pensions will be made at this time.

IODPA can not comment in detail on the issue as the legal arguments will be continuing, and may be heading for the Administrative Court should the PPA wish to see his interpretation of regulation 33 tested.

However, we can say that all of the IOD pensioners affected by Mr Morgan’s threats to reduce their injury pensions can now have a peaceful Christmas without the extreme fear that any future decision by CC Morgan will not allow him to backdate any pension payments.

Staffordshire – The Story To Date

Staffordshire – The Story To Date

All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943)

 

Elsewhere on our web site are numerous comments concerning the action taken by Staffordshire Police in reducing the pension payments due to a group of disabled former officers. The comments make clear the feelings engendered in reaction to this dramatic turn of events.

IODPA has refrained from making comment as the issue is undoubtedly going to be subject to prompt legal challenge.

However, we can give an account of what has happened so far.

Officers who are injured on duty to such an extent they can no longer perform the ordinary duties of a constable can be required to retire. They can be awarded a one-off gratuity payment plus a pension, payable for life, as compensation for no-fault injury.

The compensation scheme is governed by The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006, which is secondary legislation made by a Minister of State under provision of The Police Pensions Act 1976.

The Regulations, specifically regulation 37, allow the question of degree of disablement to be considered from time to time, as appropriate, for it is recognised that the disabling effects of duty injuries may worsen or lessen. If there has been a substantial alteration, then the amount of pension paid can be revised accordingly.

On 26th April 2017 Staffordshire Police commenced a programme intended to review the degrees of disablement of the over 300 former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension.

The programme quickly ran into difficulties as pensioners raised issues questioning the legality of the programme, both in concept and in detail.

A major issue was the insistence of Staffordshire Police that it be allowed full unrestricted access to individual’s medical records, from birth, and to personal financial information.

A number of pensioners refused to give permission, on the grounds that their personal data enjoyed detailed protection under data protection law and that there is nothing in the 2006 Regulations to require a former officer to submit any medical records made by any other doctor to the force or to any doctor employed by the force.

A further concern expressed by some pensioners was that they had no confidence Staffordshire Police was capable of conducting the review process lawfully. The content of various policy and process documents created by Staffordshire Police concerning the review programme arguably contained misinformation and misrepresentation of law.

A number of reviews were held, and the doctor tasked by Staffordshire Police to decide whether there had been any alteration in degree of disablement reported that, in some instances, due to the absence of permission to access medical records, he could not make a decision. The doctor later withdrew himself from any further involvement in the review process.

In December 2017 Staffordshire Police published a letter which sought to apportion all blame on the difficulties being experienced to, ‘a small number of individuals’.

It emerged that in the majority of instances where pensioners had refused unrestricted access to their medical records no decision was made on alteration of degree of disablement, despite it being a requirement of the relevant regulation (regulation 30) that the appointed doctor is referred the question ‘for decision’.

Each of the individuals concerned had attended an appointment arranged by the force with the force’s doctor. They answered all questions which were put to them, and allowed themselves to be medically examined where this was requested. Some provided medical evidence showing there had been no alteration in their degree of disablement. in some cases, the pensioners were recalled within months to attend a second medical examination. Again, they fully complied.

On 26th November 2018, we reported that seventeen pensioners had had their pensions reduced.

This is the letter that was sent out to those who had refused permission for unrestricted access to their medical records. We reproduce a redacted copy of one of those letters here.

Morgan letter redacted

 

The letters announce that Staffordshire Police has turned to regulation 33, which it relies on as giving authority to reduce the injury pensions of those who had refused permission for unrestricted access to their medical and access to financial records.

It is worth reproducing regulation 33 here:

Refusal to be medically examined

  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 letter indicates that Staffordshire Police has taken the view that it was not enough for the individuals concerned to have submitted themselves to such medical examination as had been arranged for them with the force’s doctor, and to have allowed themselves to be interviewed by the doctor.  Staffordshire Police appears to believe regulation 30 covers access to personal medical and financial information. Staffordshire Police thus claims there has been either a wilful or negligent refusal.

Consequently, a decision has been made by the force to reduce the pensions of the individuals concerned.

Moreover, the reductions are to be back-dated to the time when they saw the force’s doctor.

The letter is essentially identical to each individual. Each letter fails to give any reason or insight into how the decision to reduce the pensions was taken, or on what evidence.

IODPA understands that solicitors have been instructed in challenging this extraordinary action by Staffordshire Police.

We will provide updates as the situation evolves.

Gareth Morgan Invokes Regulation 33 On Seventeen Disabled Pensioners

Gareth Morgan Invokes Regulation 33 On Seventeen Disabled Pensioners

 

Gareth Morgan (pictured) has sent out letters to seventeen Staffordshire police pensioners informing them he is dropping their injury pensions based on his interpretation of Regulation 33 of The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. He is also intending to back date his decision.

We cannot comment on this any further for legal reasons, but here is what Staffordshire Police have posted on their website –

 

The Staffordshire Saga

The Staffordshire Saga

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

― Mark Twain

 

Staffordshire Police is one of less than a small handful of forces which remain determined to abuse the ‘review’ provision contained within The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.

Chief Constable Morgan, fresh from his experiences with attempting to run a mass review programme of injury pensions in Avon and Somerset, has committed Staffordshire to a similar enterprise.

Mr Morgan’s story in Avon and Somerset, which he has repeated in Staffordshire, is that there is a duty to review the degree of disablement of all former officers who are in receipt of an injury on duty pension. In an open letter dated 21st December 2017 CC Morgan writes,

On 26 April 2017 Staffordshire (sic) 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.

 

There is a duty, which is subject to a discretionary process before being acted upon, which allows a Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’) to,

. . .  consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered . . .

 

A PPA must, for each individual, first determine whether it is appropriate to consider whether their degree of disablement has altered. It must first identify a suitable interval has passed since the time of the last final decision was made on degree of disablement. In some instances, there may never be a suitable interval.

Let’s  put this as simply as possible. Unless a PPA can show, with a record of its reasoning process, that there has passed a suitable interval then a PPA is not entitled to make any consideration on degree of disablement.

This aspect of the Regulations was settled way back in 2003, in the case of Crocker. The court opined,

I regard the review provision as the key.  There is no need to speculate.  As and when circumstances dictate, the pension is reviewed.  The doctors, the Medical Referee, and Selected Medical Practitioner can, and here did, indicate when they thought that that should happen.  Such a power is wholly inconsistent with a need to forecast the future and then to test the calculation of the forecast against the actual out turn on a number of occasions.  The means by review of correcting the pension when circumstances change obviates the need not just to speculate, but to speculate and review as well.

 

That determination is not hard to understand, but in plainer English, the court decided that doctors, medical referees (now PMAB’s) and SMPs should not speculate about when any alteration in an individual’s degree of disablement might occur. A PPA should not use those speculations as reason to conduct a ‘review’.

Moreover, the court decided that any ‘review’ should be a reaction to a perceived change in circumstances of an individual.

Staffordshire Police, and others, should note well the deliberate use of the singular pronoun in regulation 37, which identifies – ‘the pensioner’. Not, ‘all pensioner’s degrees of disablement’ or even, ‘pensioner’s degrees of disablement‘.

When the Regulations speak of the singular person they intend a singular consideration, not a mass consideration.

The PPA should therefore conduct a full review only after having considered that the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered.

We have to comment too, that a ‘consideration’ is a very different concept to a ‘review’. In fact, the word ‘review’ does not appear anywhere in the Regulations.

What Staffordshire Police mistakenly reads into the Regulations is a carte blanche duty to intrude into the lives of disabled former officers. They think that they can demand a range of sensitive medical and financial information to which they have no legal right. They think that they can task their HR or Occupational Health departments to collude with the doctor hired by the force to conduct medical assessments and examination with a view to influencing what should be an independent medical decision by the SMP.

Staffordshire Police set about their plans to conduct a mass review programme in the manner of a surgeon removing a leg to treat an ingrowing toenail.

The truth is, all Staffordshire Police are entitled to do is to make a polite enquiry of only those pensioners where there my be a strong indication of alteration. Their duty is discharged entirely once they get the answer that there has been no alteration.

We can for the moment leave aside well-founded suspicions that wherever a force has decided to hold mass reviews the decision to do so has been based entirely on an expectation of saving money.

Such expectations have proved to be illusory.

The facts are that over a ten year period, up to 2015, across the country, when most forces were conducting reviews, the vast majority resulted in a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement.

Even if Staffordshire Police’s intentions were entirely based on an altruistic desire to comply with the basic concept that a police pension authority needs to ensure the correct level of pension continues to be paid, should circumstances alter, then conducting a mass review is not the way to go about it.

So, what has happened so far? What progress has been made since Mr Morgan’s announcement in April 2017?

A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed some interesting facts.

A company called IMASS/Medigold was contracted to provide a doctor or doctors to conduct the medical aspects of the reviews. This company’s doctor commenced his work with Staffordshire in February 2018.

A doctor assessed 26 injury on duty pensioners. He made a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement in 6 cases. In the remaining 20 cases he decided he could not make any decision. No former officers were decided to have experienced any alteration in degree of disablement.

There is no option in the Regulations for a SMP to discharge his task by not deciding. Once a PPA has commenced a consideration it must ensure a decision is made. Staffordshire PPA is in breach of its duty in respect of those 20 pensioners who have no finality.

Surely, common sense should prevail in these circumstances. A PPA has only one realistic option, which is to record the SMP’s ‘no decision’ as a decision there has been no alteration. It is inhuman to leave pensioners up in the air with the uncertainty a failure to decide engenders.

Other evidence of what has resulted from reviews is contained in a Progress Report dated 22nd March 2018.

Police_Pensions_Board_Half_Yearly_Report_140318

 

It states a total of 45 injury on duty pensioners had been reviewed, or were in the process of being reviewed. Of them, 13 were decided to have no alteration in degree of disablement. In 4 cases, the pension was reduced due to a decision there had been a substantial improvement in degree of disablement. Of the remaining 28 pensioners there was no news.

Each review will have cost at least £500 to £600 and if there are appeals and court cases resulting from unlawful application of the regulations the experience of Avon and Somerset will be repeated in Staffordshire. When Mr Morgan was DCC in Avon and Somerset he saw a bill which ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

IODPA finds it hard to understand why Staffordshire police pension authority is happy to waste so much public money in conducting ‘reviews’ as currently constructed, when it is open to it to devise a process which will allow it to comply with regulation 37 at minimal cost, and without visiting anxiety and real harm on vulnerable disabled former officers.

Staffordshire Police tell a good story, but just like those of Mark Twain, it is complete fiction. And not even slightly amusing.

The ICO Audits Staffordshire Police

The ICO Audits Staffordshire Police

We are drowning in information and starved for knowledge.

― Author Unknown

 

One of the many advantages of being a member of IODPA is the availability of expert knowledge on a variety of topics, all relevant to police injury pensions.

One way we assist our members is by informing them of their rights as ‘data subjects.’

The term ‘data subject’ refers to any individual person who can be identified, directly or indirectly, via an identifier such as a name, an ID number, location data, or via factors specific to the person’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity. In other words, a data subject is an individual whose personal data can be collected.

In the course of an officer’s career, their force accumulates considerable quantities of information about the individual. In the case of injury-on-duty pensioners that accumulation of data does not stop on their retirement – their force keeps on gathering it.

Trouble is, some forces don’t look after the personal information they acquire.

It is fair to say that data protection law rarely springs to the forefront of injury-on-duty pensioners minds. That is understandable, but when we see that a large and professional organisation, seems to have little knowledge of how the law requires them to manage the huge quantities of data they acquire and store, then we begin to worry.

One such deficient organisation is Staffordshire Police, which has just been shockingly revealed to be in dire need of improving its data handling processes and procedures.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has recently published its Executive Summary of a Data Protection Audit which it conducted of Staffordshire Police. You can read it here.

staffordshire-police-audit-052018

 

The report concludes Staffordshire Police could provide only limited assurance that,

processes and procedures are in place and delivering data protection compliance.

Moreover, the audit identified,

considerable scope for improvement in existing arrangements to reduce the risk of non-compliance with the DPA.

The ICO report is also critical of Staffordshire Police’s lack of a data protection policies, a lack of awareness of arrangements for sharing information, out of date information about data protection on its web site, failing to advise people about fair processing of personal information, an inability to show that information held was accurate and up to date, no publication scheme covering freedom of information requests and responses, and a low training rate of employees on data protection.

That covers pretty much all of the areas of data protection law, and shows that Staffordshire is failing in all of them.

What this means for injury-on-duty pensioners can be best illustrated by recounting some of the experiences of our members.

We are told of swathes of personal information being lost or destroyed, including important records confirming entitlement to an injury pension.

We are informed of the opposite – of Staffordshire unnecessarily retaining huge quantities of sensitive personal financial and medical information relating to former officers, and in some cases, relating to third parties such as family members.

We hear of long delays in responding to Freedom Of Information Act requests.

We are notified of inaccurate information being held, and of very sensitive personal information being accessed by employees without the permission of the data subject.

 

The situation is so bleak within Staffordshire Police that some of our members have been compelled to make formal complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office. It is our understanding that these complaints will reveal even more deficiencies in Staffordshire’s handling of personal information.

The ICO report advises, ‘The matters arising in this report are only those that came to our attention
during the course of the audit and are not necessarily a comprehensive statement of all the areas requiring improvement.’

IODPA believes that Staffordshire is only one of many forces who are failing in respect of data protection.

The Information Commissioner’s Office provides a valuable and important safeguard of injury-on-duty pensioners’ data rights and we applaud the ICO for its work and for bringing the deficiencies of Staffordshire Police into the light of public knowledge. The findings of the ICO’s initial audit are, we hope, a salutary wake-up call to Staffordshire and to all other forces who casually process so much personal information whilst starved of knowledge of data protection law.

CC Morgan cancelled today’s IOD meeting at Staffordshire Headquarters

CC Morgan cancelled today’s IOD meeting at Staffordshire Headquarters

We recently reported that Chief Constable Gareth Morgan had invited vulnerable pensioners to Staffordshire Police Headquarters to discuss the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 and in particular Regulation 33.

He also rejected the offer for the pensioners legal representatives to attend in order to represent their clients.

We understand that the meeting scheduled for today was cancelled. We can only assume that there were no takers to his invitation?

 

 

If you didn’t see them, here are the original blogs –

https://iodpa.org/2018/07/13/chief-constable-morgan-sends-letters-to-vulnerable-pensioners/

and

https://iodpa.org/2018/07/23/cc-morgan-refuses-pensioners-legal-representatives-to-attend-a-meeting/

 

CC Morgan refuses pensioner’s legal representatives to attend a meeting

CC Morgan refuses pensioner’s legal representatives to attend a meeting

We recently published a letter sent by Chief Constable Morgan of Staffordshire Police to  pensioners in our blog found here – https://iodpa.org/2018/07/13/chief-constable-morgan-sends-letters-to-vulnerable-pensioners/

He invited pensioners who are currently subject to an ongoing review to meet him, so that he may discuss his obligation to make a determination under regulation 33 of The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.

Any such determination under Regulation 33 is a legal decision and Mr Ron Thompson of Haven Solicitors who represents a number of the pensioners has quite rightly requested that he and his colleague Mark Botham be allowed to attend the meeting in order to represent his clients best interests.

Mr Morgan has refused to allow the vulnerable pensioner’s legal representatives to attend the meeting on their behalf on the basis that

 

…it was not not my intention for the meeting to be adversarial in any way.

 

We’ve been passed Mr Morgan’s response by one of the pensioners.

 

Morgan_letter_to_Ron

 

Chief Constable Morgan sends letters to vulnerable pensioners

Chief Constable Morgan sends letters to vulnerable pensioners

Chief Constable Morgan of Staffordshire Police today sent a letter to former police officers, all of whom are disabled, either mentally or physically.

These pensioners have been under review for a considerable amount of time and have to date fully complied with The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 which govern them.

They have been sent this letter by Mr Morgan who has given them a week to comply.

Our advice is that these vulnerable and injured pensioners should politely decline his offer.

 

Morgan_letter

 

Watch out for a more detailed blog on this letter shortly.