Staffordshire

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.

“Round One” to Staffordshire Police

“Round One” to Staffordshire Police

Mr Justice KERR recently handed down a judgement in the case of BOSKOVIC v. Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police. The matter was heard in Manchester Administrative Court on the 31st October 2017.

The claimant, now 42, left the employment of Staffordshire Police in 2002 with an ill health pension by reason of permanent disablement consisting of psychiatric injuries. An application was made for an injury on duty award, which was refused by Staffordshire Police following a number of psychiatric reports. The claimant was so unwell that she withdrew her application before it reached PMAB. She left the UK, returning in 2006.

In 2015, after reading an article by IODPA, she submitted an application to Staffordshire Police to have her application reconsidered under Regulation 32(2). In Haworth v. Northumbria Police Authority, regulation 32(2) was described as follows,

 

96. I am persuaded that Mr Lock must be correct in his submission that regulation 32(2) should be construed as a free standing mechanism as part of the system of checks and balances in the regulations to ensure that the pension award, either by way of an initial award or on a review to the former police officer by either the SMP or PMAB, has been determined in accordance with the regulations and that the retired officer is being paid the sum to which he is entitled under the regulations. It must be the overall policy of the scheme that the award of pension reflects such entitlement and I see no reason why regulation 32(2) should be construed simply as a mechanism to correct mistakes which might nonetheless be able to be corrected by some other means.

97. In other words I am persuaded that in the light of the statutory scheme as a whole, there is no reason not to construe regulation 32(2) as in part a mechanism (and indeed an important mechanism) to correct mistakes either as to fact or as to law which have or may have resulted in an officer being paid less than his full entitlement under the regulations, which cannot otherwise be put right, which is this case.

 

Staffordshire Police refused her request on the basis that her claim was “frivolous and vexatious”, and the matter eventually ended up in front of Mr Kerr.

Mr Kerr has refused the application on three grounds.

He had difficulty with the wording of regulation 32(2) which states the following, “The police authority and the claimant may, by agreement, refer any final decision of a medical authority who has given such a decision to him”. He believes that there must be an agreement by the PPA and that there is NO obligation to refer a matter back for reconsideration.

Secondly, he accepted that the length of time that had passed made it unlikely that the claimant would get a fair reconsideration, and that Staffordshire Police were within their rights to consider this when making a decision. This was despite the fact that the original medical reports were still on file, and even if the original psychiatrists were no longer available to reconsider the case, regulation 32(3) allows for another SMP to be appointed.

Lastly, whilst it was acknowledged that any subsequent costs i.e. payment of an injury pension award should the applicant be successful cannot be taken into account, Mr Kerr accepted that costs associated with the application and review process itself could be, particularly with regards to the cost to the public purse. Translated, this means that it is acceptable for Staffordshire Police to spend £50,000 of public money fighting this application in a Judicial Review in order to save the huge cost of £750 instructing an SMP for two hours. Of course there would be additional work for HR employees, whose salaries have to be paid anyway.

Mr Kerr gave leave for an appeal and we await “Round Two”.

The full judgement can be read here http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/14.html

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

21.12.2017

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

https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/article/8802/Pension-review-of-retired-Injured-on-Duty-IoD-officers

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.

Icarus – Injury reviews, too hot to handle.

Icarus – Injury reviews, too hot to handle.

Icarus : the son of Daedalus, tried to escape imprisonment by flying with artificial wings made of feathers glued together with wax. He flew too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

Wednesday 13th December is a day that injured on Duty Pensioners in Staffordshire and across the country will remember for a long time to come.

On that date Dr Vivian, the SMP contracted to conduct Reg 37 reviews, has with immediate effect, RESIGNED from the process, stating that it has, “been a major burden”.

By a strange twist of synchronicity, Dr Vivian conducts his business through his company called Icarus Ltd. It seems that Dr Vivian has found things too hot for him. We have no wish to see him come to harm and his resignation may well be an honourable reaction to being in a situation which compromised his ethics.  But, will his departure cause those in charge in Staffordshire Police to give any thought to the adverse physical and psychological affect that the reviews are having on the disabled pensioners themselves?

Many of you will know, that since the summer, Staffordshire Police have been ruthlessly pressing ahead with reviews, with virtually every reviewed pensioner being reduced in banding or having been unlawfully threatened with loss of their pension for not providing their full medical notes or completing a questionnaire.

Dr Vivian has been at the heart of these reviews. Although pensioners are stating that he has been nothing but courteous and polite, he has been reducing people unlawfully and he has been making outrageous demands for medical records to which he, and the police pension authority, are not entitled. It is bad enough that Dr Vivian and his employer have been acting outside the law, but it is beyond all bounds of normal decency that the actions are accompanied with threats.

We believe that Dr Vivian is a decent physician who appears to have been misled by those paying his fees. His attendance at the laughingly mis-named National Welfare and Engagement Forum (NWEF), lair of the infamous and erroneous Nicholas Wirz and cronies, suggests that his independence is questionable. At those meetings he will have been subjected to abundant bad advice and copious misinformation concerning the duties and legal restraints which apply to the conduct of injury pension reviews.

A doctor should always look after his or patients without causing harm or unwarranted distress. Did Dr Vivian come to realise that he was being forced to sell his soul?

We understand that Dr Vivian has recently been under an enormous amount of stress over performing the role of the SMP during these reviews. This may have been caused by Staffordshire Police putting pressure on him to obtain the results that they want rather than leaving to him providing a fair independent expert assessment.

Dr Vivian has stated of SMP work that, ‘. . . it has a reputation of being highly contentious“. We at IODPA say in response, that If all reviews were conducted properly and fairly under the Regulations, then then there would be no need for stress and contention.

The SMP’s departure leaves Andrew Coley and Chief Constable Morgan in a predicament.

Do they now follow Avon and Somerset Constabulary who terminated reviews in June this year or do they continue to waste tax payers money on pursuing reviews?

IODPA continues to closely monitor events and sincerely hopes that Dr Vivian’s resignation will signal the beginning of the end of unlawful reviews and the abhorrent threats and intimidation which too many vulnerable disabled pensioners have been subjected to.

Nothing to say, Mr Giffard?

Nothing to say, Mr Giffard?

“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.” Police caution to suspects.

Only in the oppressive, nightmarish and twisted universe of some SMP assessments can someone in ‘attendance‘ be told that not answering questions to the satisfaction of the inquisitor is refusing to attend.  It is likely to be a cold day in Hell before the former police officers are given the same protections of adverse inferences than those suspected of crime.  Even John Giffard, who was Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police from 1996 to 2006, should get to explain his version of events and his dealing with injury awards without getting to hear the police caution directed at him.

Anyone can make mistakes but below we evidence some extraordinary, and very hard to explain behaviour by Giffard and leave it to our readers to decide what lasting legacy such actions have had on present day injury awards reviews.

For sure, anything which he has done, or failed to do, will be brushed to one side by his former chums in the National Police Chiefs Council. These people are well schooled in the art of never admitting any wrongdoing and in protecting their own. They, and Giffard, would have known exactly what Gordon Gekko meant when he said, “Moral hazard is when they take your money and then are not responsible for what they do with it.”

Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in two films about the unrestrained greed exhibited by Wall Street bankers and money men, could well have appeared as a character in another spin-off film about the moral bankruptcy of certain senior officers, SMPs and others. Expanding on Gekko’s definition we can identify moral hazard as a situation where somebody has the opportunity to take advantage of somebody else by taking risks that the other will pay for. The idea is that people might ignore the moral implications of their choices: instead of doing what is right, they do what benefits them the most.

In Giffard’s case, he very clearly did not do what was right. Quite the opposite in fact, and, to make matters worse, he did it as authorised spokesperson for every Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable and Assistant Chief Constable, the Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Assistant Commissioner and Commanders of the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police and certain senior non-police staff and senior members of national police agencies and certain other specialised and non-geographical forces in the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. In total, he spoke for over 300 very senior police managers, all of whom were members of the then Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Apparently, not a single one of these worthies realised Giffard had made a major boo-boo.

Unless – they agreed with what he wrote. Which is a scenario of corruption of frightening proportions.

So, let’s see what Giffard did. Back in 2004 he was ACPO lead for pensions when one Colin Phillips, Police Pensions and Ill Health Retirement Officer within the Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group within the Home Office wrote to ACPO. Phillips was seeking the view of  all Chief Officers, via ACPO, on some guidance the Home Office was intending to publish concerning the management of police injury pensions.

Here is Phillips’ letter.

HO Letter to ACPO Giffard

 The guidance was published in August 2004. It was the infamous, and since-proven unlawful advice contained in Annex C to Home Office circular 46/2004. It said,

‘Review of Injury Pensions once Officers reach Age 65

Once a former officer receiving an injury pension reaches the age of 65 they will have reached their State Pension Age irrespective of whether they are male or female. The force then has the discretion, in the absence of a cogent reason otherwise, to advise the SMP to place the former officer in the lowest band of Degree of Disablement.  At such a point the former officer would normally no longer be expected to be earning a salary in the employment market.’

With this guidance in mind some 15 or so forces set about holding reviews with the intention of robbing elderly disabled former officers of their rightful pensions. We need not go into the detailed history of those appalling reviews and the hugely harmful effect they had on vulnerable individuals and their families, but it is sufficient to say that the guidance had to be withdrawn once the courts had declared it to be unlawful.

However, it has left a legacy of continuing maladministration in its wake. Moreover, it signified the unveiling of what had been hitherto thinly concealed antagonistic attitudes held by some senior officers and managers against police injury pensioners. For reasons we can only guess, some people seem to think that all injury pensioners are ‘working the system’, or are too generously recompensed for their injuries, or that injury pensions are fair game for any Chief Officer who wants to trim the force budget.

If the Home Office guidance was the trigger for an era of outrageous manipulation of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations, where certain forces have sought to make cash savings by attempts to reduce the level of injury pension payments, then the letter which Giffard, on behalf of ACPO, wrote to the Home Office is the smoking gun which signifies exactly who must hold responsibility for all maladministration occurring since 2004.

This is what Giffard replied to the Home Office.

Giffard to HO

Astoundingly, what we read is evidence that a very senior police officer, speaking on behalf of all other very senior police officers thinks that it is perfectly lawful to take away the injury pensions of all 12,000 plus disabled former officers once they reach the age of 65. Moreover, this is to be achieved by means of some guidance issued by the Home Office. Guidance which has no legal authority and is of no more value than any other piece of advice. In other words, ACPO thinks the law can be changed by Home Office guidance.

If we search for reasons why this crass letter was penned and delivered to the Home Office, signifying the total agreement of all very senior police officers and managers to an illegal action, we can only see two possibilities. Either Giffard and all said senior personnel were utterly unaware, to the point of gross negligence, that injury pensions can not be reduced or ceased as suggested, or all concerned were aware and willing to be party to a conspiracy to pervert the rule of law.

This is such a serious matter that IODPA thought it best to give Giffard an opportunity to offer an explanation for his actions.

Accordingly, we wrote to him. This is what we said:

IODPA-G-12-09-17

 We anticipated that Giffard might simply ignore IODPA or he might dispel all our suspicions and make a handsome apology for what was a most grievous error.

Giffard did neither. He surprised us by taking what looks like a cowardly way out. He sent our letter to the National Police Chiefs Council for them to deal with. What a cop-out. Not at all the actions of an honourable man.

I wish we could say that the NPCC responded in a positive manner. That would be too much to hope for, as we know only too well that nothing has changed at the top. First ACPO sells out disabled police pensioners, and now the NPCC waffles and says nothing which addresses the issue. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Here is the NPCC’s response.

ST_IODPA_Injury_Pensions_06_11_2017

It is interesting (a surprise to those currently being reviewed) to read that the NPCC chair, Chief Constable Sara Thornton, states quite clearly that:

Forces are no longer initiating new reviews of police injury benefit benefits, pending the issue of new guidance or directions

Nobody is going to be sent round to Giffard’s modest little country pile to invite him down the local nick to answer some questions. No boys or girls in blue are going to be raiding the NPCC for more documentary evidence of possible corruption or misconduct in public office. What we witness here is no more than what we have come to expect – complete denial of wrongdoing by way of batting off any complaints, criticisms or enquiries with meaningless measly-mouthed platitudes. And an unshakable certainty that they are all above the law.

If you want a glimpse into the murky world of top police management, then Giffard’s letter is the litmus test which indicates the presence of an endemic disdain for ethics and law totally at odds with the standards of behaviour and management we all have a right to expect from our police service.

Mr Giffard. your silence speaks more loudly than any protestations of innocence ever could.

The Scandal in Staffordshire

The Scandal in Staffordshire

Alea iacta est”  (“The die is cast”) — Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 B.C as he crossed the Rubicon river

November 9th 2017 was a black day.  It was the day Staffordshire police, Andrew Colley and Charles Vivian crossed the Rubicon.

The answer will be found in the courts and injustice will be vanquished, as it always is, but still Staffordshire police wants test their ruinous interpretation of the law whilst ignoring the collateral harm it is deliberately causing to those injured in their police service.

Why are we here and why wasn’t this stopped when the wickedness was embryonic?  What follows is a timely reminder.

Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin” describes how when behaviour worsens, those with the power to do something go on the defensive, convinced there is always a reasonable explanation for why what they could have stopped was done to others.

On the 7 June 2017 at court room in North Shields, employment Judge Buchanan heard how David Curry, a former police officer retired on a pension awarded for disabling brain injury suffered in the line of duty had been pursued since 1998 by his former force. Mr Curry had his injury pension reviewed in 1989, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2010 and continually from 2016 to 2017. The fact that he was sectioned and admitted into a psychiatric ward wasn’t enough to persuade his former force there had been no change in his capacity to earn.

David’s experience is sadly not an isolated instance. The charity Injury on Duty Pensioners Association (IODPA)1 has gathered a large and growing body of personal accounts by the victims of maladministration. So much is wrong with so many aspects of police injury pension management that the situation is little short of a national scandal, which requires the attention of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Disabled former officers such as Mr Curry can never be free from the police.  The new £7.5m Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW)  welfare fund is helping those serving but neglects those already injured and retired.  Ill-health retirement is sadly an acrimonious and bureaucratic process and this doesn’t cease once permanence has been proved and the warrant card handed back. Every time the postman drops a letter through a letterbox carries the risk of adversity; a letter from the force causing the injured to relive the trauma of how they left the police.

Through a fluke of mailroom efficiency, often these letters drop on a Saturday when week-day mental health support has closed. No other occupation has such a toe-hold on those leave through medical retirement.  They are being treated as though they are cheats or liars. Some, including those with severe mental injury, have been subjected to hours-long aggressive ‘medical inquisitions’ by doctors appointed by their former force throughout their life outside of the police.

When a force wants to review the principles of the Data Protection Act are often forgotten. As are the Access to Medical Reports Act, and General Medical Council and Faculty of Occupational Medicine guidelines. Pensioners are facing unlawful demands for access to their medical records and see reports written by said doctors, which contain gross errors in fact and law, delivered to HR departments without their permission. Pensioners have been threatened with stoppage of their injury pensions if they fail to complete questionnaires demanding sensitive financial and medical information having no relevance whatever to the management of their pensions.

Age can never be a factor.  Slavishly following a “policy” is unlawful.  It is never justifiable to threaten compliance or consent. A SMP can’t have a predetermined decision based on averages of prognosis for the general population.  Causation can not be touched upon  It is not about earnings.

All these things happened in Staffordshire on the 9th November 2017.

Those injured and disabled have to contend with pension scheme administrators who have little to no understanding of the Regulations which govern police injury pensions and whose automatic reaction to any enquiry or query concerning mismanagement is to circle the wagons and to deny, delay, obfuscate and obstruct. Complaints are brushed aside, and are labelled as vexatious, or an abuse of the complaints system.

Mass reviews have been held, in some forces areas, causing very great worry and inconvenience to disabled former officers and their families. Decisions made on degree of disablement are intended to be final and only subject to review where the PPA consider that there has been an alteration in the pensioner’s degree of disablement.

There are 43 regional police forces in England and Wales. The picture is mixed, with the majority of forces not conducting reviews, whilst others have actively set about wholesale abuse of the discretionary power to conduct reviews. IODPA has been told by pensioners in these areas that they fear they are caught up in a grotesque game, where a handful of people on a mission are using them to test the boundaries of what they think they can get away with – all with the misplaced and illusory objective of saving money.

IODPA has no objection to lawful reviews, which it insists should be rare events, triggered when the PPA consider that there has been an alteration in the medical condition of any individual. Research conducted on behalf of IODPA produced data on reviews held covering the five year period 2010 – 2015 revealing that 83% of all reviews held resulted in a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement, and thus no revision of the amount of injury pension paid. Some 10.29% of reviews resulted in a decrease in pension, whilst 6.82% were increased. Just six forces accounted for the majority of the reviews, conducting 781 out of the total of 806. Merseyside alone conducted a staggering 502 reviews, all of which are believed to have been unlawfully held.

It can be concluded from the research that some forces wasted a great deal of public money conducting unnecessary reviews, which cost around £2500 each, with other, more substantial costs resulting from appeals and legal challenges.

Avon & Somerset has paid one SMP, a Dr Phillip Johnson, £94,500 in twelve months from August 2016 to August 2017.  Add this to the £54,600 paid to Johnson from December 2015 to August 2016 and the £146,667 between June 2014 to November 2015, and the sum totals just under three hundred thousand pounds.  Given Johnson works as the force medical officer for Dorset police and Avon & Somerset already pays a salary of over £150k per annum to Dr David Bulpitt, the scales of money exchanging hands is staggering.

In one force3, pensioners were selected for review by what was essentially an automated lottery, with no evidence whatever to believe their degree of disablement had altered. In one force a civilian member of staff was given free access to the medical records of police injury pensioners. It seems this force allowed, even encouraged attempts to reduce injury pension payments. The civilian’s job description2 commenced thus:

Job Purpose. To manage the investigation and process of police and support staff retirement on the grounds of ill health. To ensure maximum savings to the force budget through the robust investigation of injury award applications, injury award reviews, medical appeals and reviewing permanently disabled officers who have been retained in service.

It seems this force has wrongly tied what should be the administration of injury pensions within the content, scope and purposes of the Regulations to the management of the force budget. Disabled pensioners are to be subjected to ‘investigation’ rather than be treated with respect and consideration.

The fact of the unlawful reviews is cause enough for concern, but there is a widespread and justified belief among pensioners that the reviews are motivated solely by a misplaced desire to save money from hard-pressed police budgets.

There is also uneasiness regarding the unhelpful attitudes of HR staff, the some doctors, and senior officers, some of whom are politely aggressive, or arrogantly dismissive of pensioners’ concerns.

It is unacceptable that that the rights of injured on duty pensioners should be trampled on by the failures of those responsible for the legitimate management of the scheme. Retired disabled officers deserve better. Attitudes need to change.

When a police officer is injured on duty, to such an extent they can no longer perform the ordinary duties of a constable they can be compulsorily medically retired. Injury can be physical or mental, or a combination of both. The retiring officer can be awarded a one-off gratuity and an injury pension, which is payable for life. The test for qualification for the award is whether the person concerned is disabled, whether the disablement is likely to be permanent and whether the disablement is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty.

The injury on duty pension scheme is governed by the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006. The explanatory memorandum3 to that legislation makes it clear that injury awards, ‘. . . are in effect compensation for work-related injuries.’

In making provision for injured officers to receive a pension, successive Governments have consistently acknowledged that entitlement to a police injury pension is a key element of the remuneration of police officers to enable them to undertake their role with confidence. Officers need to know that if they have to be retired due to disabling injury they will not suffer financial detriment. Currently, that certainty is slipping away, and if this trend continues, then morale of serving officers will suffer.

If there was no injury pension scheme, it is reasoned that Chief Officers would inevitably find themselves subjected to litigation, with allegations of negligence, and claims for compensation for injury. Given that there are currently over 12,000 former officers retired with an injury on duty, the potential cost of litigation should there have been no injury award scheme could well have run into thousands of millions.

No amount of pension can ease the difficulties retiring injured officers face. The consequential mental trauma of injury can be severe. There is the loss of an occupation which for many officers is seen as a vocation more than a means of earning a living. There is the loss of the comradeship, and loss of the sense of belonging, of being engaged in a worthwhile enterprise with noble aims and purpose. With the shock of injury and retirement comes the need to construct a new life. Some disabled former officers manage the transition with minimal difficulty. They find a new job or a new career. They adapt to the restrictions the disablement brings.

However, for many, especially those with very severe disablement, IODPA is well aware that transition to life outside the police can be a lengthy and distressing experience. Despite positive changes in attitudes by employers, encouraged by anti-discrimination legislation, disabled former officers, especially those with a mental injury, may well find themselves to be unemployable.

The Regulations governing police injury pensions are not concerned with these problems. They address only the one issue, that of providing a minimum income guarantee in retirement, and on that issue they are adequate for purpose. An injury pension scheme is only effective where it is properly managed. The Regulations are not hard to understand. Yet they are being woefully misunderstood by some who have responsibility for managing the police injury pension scheme.

In November 2013 the College of Policing arranged a review of forces’ management of ill health Retirements, injury on duty awards and police medical appeal boards4. Amongst other conclusions, the resulting report found that:

Many forces are struggling due to the lack of expertise within their organisations.’

The structure of some force HR facilities do not support the management of the process. When managed by shared service pools rather than through specific dedicated individuals, personnel are unable to build up experience in dealing with these case.’

The above issues are compounded by a lack of dedicated subject matter experts across the service and training opportunities.’

We have to look back to 2006 to see the origins of this sad state of affairs. Due to a change in tax legislation, and to preserve the tax-free status of injury awards they were separated from the general police pension schemes. The injury pension scheme became a non-contributory scheme, and award payments now stand to be met from the budget of each force.

This immediately brought about a focus on the cost of meeting existing injury pension payments. Some chief officers sought to reduce what was seen as a burden on scarce resources by manipulating the review provision.

Then the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 abolished police authorities, which had hitherto held the legal obligation to administer the police injury award scheme. In practice, authorities had delegated the administration to Chief Constables, but they continued to provide an important oversight. The 2011 Act created the office of police pension authority and vested it in the sole personages of each Chief Constable.

There seems to be a built-in conflict of interest in having Chief Constables, who must dutifully manage their budgets, having to attempt to set aside all considerations of cost when acting as the police pension authority. The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 do not say that a pension can be reviewed because a Chief Constable is concerned about the cost of paying it. Some Chief Constables have failed to make the necessary separation of their duties, to their great shame and to the detriment of disabled, and often vulnerable, former officers.

In Lionel Shriver’s novel, it was too late to save Kevin and those he massacred. The opportunity to make things right had passed. It is not too late for disabled former officers like David. IODPA suggests that Police and Crime Commissioners urgently should look closely at the human and financial cost of these issues and help ensure that police injury pensions are managed within the law.

1 https://iodpa.org/

2 See: http://iodpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/000.JDQ-Medical-Retirement-Officer.pdf

3 See: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/injury_on_duty_reviews_the_next#outgoing-510456

4 See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/932/pdfs/uksiem_20060932_en.pdf

5 See: College of Policing Review of Force Management of Ill Health Retirements, Injury on Duty Awards and Police Medical Appeal Boards