Fri, 02 Dec 2011
The Court of Appeal has given permission to a retired police officer to challenge the lawfulness of Home Office Guidance which has led to the pensions of retired police officers being slashed to the lowest level for nearly a decade. The test case could affect pension cuts for thousands of injured former police officers whose pensions have been reduced under the controversial guidance.
The Court in London was hearing a case involving a retired Northumbria Police Officer, Bryan Simpson, now aged 75, whose pension was reduced in 2009 and who has been fighting the decision ever since. The decision echoes a case earlier this year where West Yorkshire Police Authority faced a similar claim but settled out of court to avoid a court hearing.
The controversial Home Office Guidance has been used by Police Authorities up and down the country, to reduce payments to thousands of former officers who reach the age of 65. However, as the Judges in the Court of Appeal made clear yesterday, there is a strong case that the Guidance, drawn up by the Home Office in 2004, conflicts with the pensions regulations by suggesting that police injury pensions can be reduced to the lowest level when a former officer turns 65.
David Lock QC appearing for the former officer, told the court that thousands of former police officers had had their pensions reduced as a result of the Guidance. In exchanges at court, Lord Justice Carnworth told the Home Office barrister and that it was plainly in the public interest for the lawfulness of the Guidance to be established “one way or another”.
One of the former officers who brought the West Yorkshire case was former Inspector, Dennis Clarkson. He said: “I put myself in harms’ way as a police officer, just as many serving officers bravely did in the recent terrible riots. Policing is a dangerous job and officers can suffer serious injuries serving their communities.
“I was injured whilst serving my community and lost my career and my income as a result. I was appalled that my Police Authority, like other Police Authorities the length and breadth of the nation, have used unlawful guidance from the Home Office to reduce the pensions of former serving officers.”
Ron Thompson of the York office of specialist solicitors, Lake Jackson, who ran both the Yorkshire and Northumbria cases, said: “We are pursuing cases on behalf of many other former officers who lost their police careers as a result of injuries and then suffer the further insult of having their injury pensions unlawfully reduced.
“I appreciate that there are pressures on police budgets but this case shows that Police Authorities cannot unlawfully reduce the pensions of former officers as a way of trying to save money.
“We hope that the Home Office will accept that the Guidance for reviewing pensioners who reach the age of 65 is unlawful and that any reviews conducted under the Guidance should be set aside and the pensions should be reinstated.
“We are not surprised that hundreds of police officers are rightly angry that they have had their pensions unlawfully reduced.
“We recognise that this will have a price-tag for Police Authorities. However, they are now on notice that they cannot reduce pension payments to their injured former officers to save money and those officers will be coming for compensation and reinstatement of their entitlements.”