Page last updated Sunday 27th April 2014 at 1520hrs
In yet another Courtroom debacle, West Yorkshire Police have been forced to pay out huge compensation bills after unlawfully cutting the pensions of over 400 retired officers in an ill-starred bid to save money. This follows yet another high profile High Court case that went against them in December 2011.
The original Court settlement, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds, was with four officers who were forced to retire after being injured on duty and later had their pensions reduced. UPSD saw documents and minutes that persuaded them that the legal reversal would pave the way for hundreds of other retired officers to claim backpay, piling ever more pressure on West Yorkshire Police who are already faced with deep budget cuts amounting to £20million per year.
We understand those settlements to the vast majority of the officers were made at the end of October 2012.
The Court ruling by HH Brian Langstaff impacted on police authorities up and down the country, including West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire (to whom West Yorkshire are contracted to provide Treasurer and audit services) , who adopted controversial Home Office guidance encouraging them to slash spending on injury pensions.
The two men pushing this scheme hard were none other than our slippery uPSD friend and The House of Fraser kingmaker, Fraser Sampson (pictured above left) and his hapless sidekick and former Police Authority chairman, Mark Burns-Williamson (pictured above right).
The four retired West Yorkshire officers, John Dorricott, John Dewane , Dennis Clarkson and Langford Turner took West Yorkshire Police Authority to Leeds High Court as a last resort, claiming it was wrong to cut their payments after they had reached the age of 65. Judge Brian Langstaff gave them permission for a Substantive Hearing to seek Judicial Review of WYPA’s decision, but the Authority agreed to settle before the case could be heard and picked up the bill for all legal costs.
The Court Order crucially stated: “That the reviews undertaken by the Police Authority of the injury pensions payable to each of the Claimants conducted in accordance with the Home Office Guidance 2004/46 were unlawfully conducted and are hereby quashed “.
One of the retired officers, former police sergeant Dennis Clarkson, said: “I was injured while serving my community and lost my career and my income as a result. I was appalled that my police authority has used unlawful guidance from the Home Office to reduce the pensions of former serving officers. I hope that other former officers and police authorities sit up and take notice.”
Ron Thompson, a York-based solicitor who represented the retired officers quite brilliantly, said he had seen cases where claimants’ incomes had been cut by more than £10,000 a year. “Police authorities should be contacting all the pensioners they have reviewed in this manner and see if they want to sort it out,” he added. “There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of injured ex-officers in this country who have had their pensions reduced unlawfully.”
The Home Office guidance was introduced in 2004 in an attempt to standardise the injury pension process, but fewer than half of the 43 forces in England and Wales have adopted it and each has interpreted it differently. Clint Elliott, chief executive of the National Association of Retired Police Officers, said it had received more complaints about injury pension reviews in West Yorkshire than anywhere else in the country.
He added: “We have been writing to WYPA and the Chief Constable, Sir Norman Bettison, on this subject for three or four years, pointing out that they were wrong. If they had listened four years ago they would not be in the position they are now. This must have cost a fortune. What originally was meant to be a money-saving venture is going to blow up in their faces.”
As expected, behind almost every administrative disaster lurks ex West Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable, David Crompton. He said the guidance meant “some very difficult and emotive choices” had to be made. “Nevertheless we do not believe that this court ruling represents a precedent which will result in a wide ranging review of all these cases and in the context of the force having to save over £100m in the next four years we believe that the taxpayers will understand our approach,” he said.
The aftermath of the battle with retired officers is still smouldering and UPSD are investigating a number of areas of legal impropriety and police misconduct concerned with both the decision making and legal processes attached to this case. Some of those may amount to criminal offences.
Most recently (April 17th 2014) the Pension Ombudsman ruled in favour of retired officer Brunning who had fought a six year battle against the deceit of Burns-Williamson, Sampson and the ever-tricky Force Solicitor, Mike Percival. The full decision can be viewed by clicking here.
There is also the burning issue of the refusal to allow one of the retired officers to ask Public Questions at the last-ever Police Authority meeting on 9th November, 2012. An occasion now famous for the complete loss of self control of Leeds Councillor, Les Carter.
The same Mr Carter who stood in front of the assembled company on the day, including the Chief Constable, and lied about the number of ex-South Yorkshire Police officers now employed by West Yorkshire Police, and the same Mr Carter who Chaired the Police Authority sub-committee that approved the plan to take away sums of up to £10,000pa from retired police officers. Without, of course affecting the £232 per day Carter draws for sitting on such Committees.
That completed a full set of false answers provided by the Authority to questions set by investigative journalist, Neil Wilby over the past year or so.