Injury pension payments - High Court Ruling, 16 September 2020
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Staffordshire Police notes the decision of the High Court this morning, 16 September 2020, to dismiss claims made against the force by 18 former police officers regarding review of their injury pension payments.
The claims were complex and involved significant scrutiny of the force’s administration of injury pension reviews since 2017. The force’s approach to the Claimants’ cases has been upheld by the High Court as justified and lawful.
Staffordshire Police welcomes the clarity that this ruling brings, for how it and other police forces administer injury pension reviews, and for individuals who are subject to these reviews. The force recognises that this has been a difficult and challenging process for all involved. The Court’s decision noted the efforts made by the Chief Constable’s staff, who sought to reassure pensioners and answer questions and arguments about the review process as it progressed.
Staffordshire Police repeats what the Chief Constable said at the outset of the review process:
“I am very mindful of the expectation outlined in Regulations that injury pensions are reassessed. I have a duty to ensure that the use of public money is justified and necessary and this needs to be balanced with the recognition that these benefits were awarded following injury in the course of duty to the public. I am clear that Staffordshire Police will meet its legal commitments to honour injury benefit payments at a level to which each pensioner is entitled.”
The Chief Constable recognises the service and sacrifice made by officers who are permanently disabled by an injury on duty and welcomes the clarity provided by the High Court that the force’s administration of injury pension reviews since 2017 is justified and lawful.
Background - Injury pension payments review
Pensions paid to injured former officers under the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 consist of a lump sum award and an ongoing payment. This is separate to a police officer’s occupational pension and any state benefits that may be received regarding injuries.
In relation to the ongoing payments, these vary between four different “bands” depending on the extent to which the duty injury continues to cause a loss of earning capacity. This is determined by an independent medical practitioner.
In April 2017, Staffordshire Police began reviews of injury benefit pension payments in line with the relevant regulations – Reg. 37(1) of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 – which place a duty upon the Chief Constable, acting as the Police Pension Authority for Staffordshire Police, to consider at suitable intervals whether the degree of a pensioner’s disablement has altered.
The review process embarked upon by the Chief Constable in 2017 is a fair and transparent process which ensures that recipients continue to receive the appropriate level of injury benefit – paid in addition to the police occupational pension entitlement – and that public money is used most effectively.
The majority of injury benefit recipients cooperated with the process and of the 78 completed reviews carried out to date for Staffordshire Police, 57 injury pensioners have had their payment banding levels maintained.
A small number of individuals declined to cooperate with the review process and the Chief Constable, acting as the Police Pension Authority, had to consider their cases with guidance from medical and legal professionals.
On 26 November 2018, Chief Constable Morgan wrote to 19 injury benefit recipients to advise them of the outcome of their reviews. While it is not appropriate to comment on individual cases, we can confirm that two individuals had their benefits maintained and a decision was made to reduce the injury benefit payments of 17 individuals in line with the evidence available.
Those 17 individuals applied for a judicial review of the Police Pension Authority’s determinations in the High Court, together with another injury pensioner whose case had not been reviewed yet. The claims were consolidated and heard together on 15 and 16 July 2020.
The High Court case relates only to the ongoing payment element of the pension. No change to the claimants’ pensions was implemented pending the outcome of the legal proceedings. There was no dispute about the lump sum awards previously paid, and no pensioner could or did have their injury payments reduced below Band 1. Nor was there any dispute about the accrued service pension rights and any state benefits which injured former officers may receive.
The injury pension reviews were not conducted as part of general spending reviews or cuts, but because the pension regulations require that the levels of payments be reviewed.