The Queen (on the application of Peter Goodland) v Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMr Justice Linden
Judgment Date16 Sep 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] EWHC 2477 (Admin)
Docket NumberCase Nos: CO/1035/2019 and CO/899/2019

[2020] EWHC 2477 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Mr Justice Linden

Case Nos: CO/1035/2019 and CO/899/2019

Between:
The Queen (on the application of Peter Goodland)
Claimant
and
Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police
Defendant

The Queen (on the application of

And Between:
(1) Martin Wright
(2) Ralph Barlow
(3) Edward White
(4) Jayne Baker
(5) Nicholas Tucker
(6) Douglas Boulton
(7) James Taylor
(8) Peter Bennet
(9) Michael Thomason
(10) Stephen Wilson
(11) Gareth Williams
(12) Colin Aston
(13) David Upton
(14) Frederick Bower
(15) Geoffrey Tweats
(16) Kevin Bridgwood
(17) Simon Bonnet)
Claimants
and
Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police
Defendant

Mr David Lock QC and Ms Julia Smyth (instructed by Haven Solicitors Ltd and Taylor Law) for the Claimants

Mr Jonathan Holl-Allen QC and Mr Aaron Rathmell (instructed by Staffordshire and West Midlands Police Joint Legal Services) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 15 and 16 July 2020

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mr Justice Linden Mr Justice Linden

The Honourable

INTRODUCTION .

1

The Claimants are former police officers who retired from the Staffordshire police force (“the Force”) as a result of injuries which they sustained in the course of their duties. For many years they have been in receipt of injury awards pursuant to the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/932 (“the 2006 Regulations”), having each been found to be permanently disabled as a result of their injuries and consequently to have suffered a reduction in their earning capacity.

2

The Defendant is the Police Pensions Authority (“the PPA”) in relation to members and retired members of the Force for the purposes of the 2006 Regulations.

3

On 2 March 2008, the Defendant's statutory predecessor entered into an agreement with the Police Federation and the National Association of Retired Police Officers (“NARPO”) as to how the 2006 Regulations would be applied in certain categories of case (“the NARPO Agreement”). Pursuant to the NARPO Agreement a number of award holders, including a number of the Claimants, were then given guarantees that their then current assessment of loss of earning capacity, and therefore pension, would remain at the same level for the rest of their lives. They were also told that there would be no review of their injury award unless they requested one following a significant change in their condition.

4

Following a series of announcements, and consultation with NARPO, by letters dated 18 April 2017 each of the Claimants was notified by the Defendant that their award would be reviewed as part of a reassessment programme which would apply to all award holders save for certain exempted categories. This step was said to be in accordance with Regulation 37 of the 2006 Regulations. Award holders were told that, in accordance with the Regulations, they would be assessed by a qualified medical practitioner. The selected medical practitioner (“the SMP”) would determine whether their degree of disablement had substantially altered, for better or for worse, since they were last assessed. Their awards would then be adjusted accordingly if appropriate.

5

In response to accusations that what lay behind the reassessment programme was a cost cutting agenda, the Defendant sought to reassure retired officers that this was not the case, including in a letter to Mark Judson of NARPO dated 7 July 2017. This explained the decision to conduct the reviews as follows:

“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 process is not a cost-saving exercise and will not be a factor in any force savings target required by the ongoing budgetary challenges. Neither does the Force have a predetermined aim to reduced bandings.”

6

In the event, between April 2017 and May 2020, the Defendant completed reviews in 70 cases, including all bar one of the Claimants. Of these reviews, in 49 cases the level of pension payments remained unchanged, in 2 cases it increased and in 19 cases it was reduced. At the time of the hearing before me there were another 10 reviews in progress. The Claimants therefore did not pursue any allegations of a hidden agenda before me. Nor did they question the independence of the SMPs who carried out their individual assessments. However, Mr Lock QC says that lack of trust on the part of the Claimants, whether or not it was justified, was a significant factor in their refusal to cooperate with the review process, described below.

7

In the case of Mr Goodland, he protested against the proposed review of his case on the basis that, by letter dated 12 March 2008 (“the 12 March letter”), the Defendant guaranteed his pension for life and promised that there would only be a review of it if he requested one. No review has taken place in his case, apparently because his case has not yet been reached in the overall process.

8

In the case of the other Claimants, they refused to answer questionnaires which were sent to them by the Defendant from May 2017 when their cases came up for review (“the Questionnaire”). The Questionnaire asked them for medical and employment related information which they accept was relevant to the assessment of their awards but which, they maintain, they were not obliged to provide. These Claimants also refused to give consent to the Defendant's occupational health professionals or to the SMPs to access their medical records, as a result of which the SMPs decided in each of their cases that they could not carry out an assessment for the purposes of the 2006 Regulations. The Defendant therefore decided, pursuant to Regulation 33, that he would nevertheless review their awards and he did so. The reviews resulted in reductions in each of these cases although these reductions have not been implemented pending the outcome of this litigation.

9

There are therefore two categories of Claim before me:

i) In the first, CO/1035/2019, Mr Goodland contends that the 12 March letter gave rise, at common law, to a legitimate expectation that his pension would continue for life and would not be reviewed unless he requested such a review. It would be a breach of this expectation for such a review to take place. He says that such a review would also interfere with his right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 of the First Protocol (“A1P1”) to the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).

ii) In the second, CO/899/2019 (“ the Wright cases”), Mr Wright and 16 other Claimants challenge the decisions by the Defendant in each of their cases to carry out a review and reduce their pensions pursuant to Regulation 33. They say that the Defendant took decisions which he had no power under the 2006 Regulations to take or alternatively, if he did have power to do so, he acted unlawfully in any event as his decisions were in breach of these Claimants' rights under Articles 6 and 8 ECHR and/or the Defendant's common law duty of fairness. Their claims are brought together on the basis that they raise common issues. As noted above, they do not challenge the independence of the SMPs who dealt with their case. They accept that each SMP sought access to their medical records but they say that this was done on a blanket basis rather than by reference to the circumstances in each case, which they say was an unlawful approach. These Claimants also accept that access to relevant parts of their medical records could assist the SMPs in carrying out their task.

10

Amongst the Wright cases, the decision in the case of Mr Kevin Bridgwood has been withdrawn by the Defendant as it was based on incorrect information.

THE STRUCTURE OF THIS JUDGMENT

11

I consider the issues in these cases under the following headings:

i) The 2006 Regulations: paragraphs 12–46.

ii) The Goodland claim:

a) The facts in more detail: paragraphs 47–61;

b) The Defendant's objection on grounds of delay: paragraphs 62–71;

c) Ground 1 — breach of legitimate expectation — paragraphs 72–88;

d) Ground 2 — breach of Article 1, Protocol 1 ECHR — paragraphs 89–128.

iii) The Wright claims:

a) The facts in more detail: paragraphs 129–179.

b) Ground 1 — error of law in taking into account failure to complete the Questionnaire when deciding that Regulation 33 was engaged — paragraphs 181–185.

c) Ground 2 — error of law and/or breach of Article 8 ECHR in taking into account refusal to consent to disclosure of medical records when deciding that Regulation 33 was engaged — paragraphs 186–214:

i) The construction of Regulation 33: paragraphs 187–204;

ii) Article 8 ECHR: paragraphs 205–213.

d) Ground 3 — breach of Article 6 ECHR in failing to refer the matter to an independent and impartial tribunal — paragraphs 215–232.

e) Ground 4: breach of Article 6 ECHR and/or the common law duty to act fairly: paragraphs 233–237.

THE 2006 REGULATIONS .

12

Under Regulation 11(1) of the 2006 Regulations the category of persons who qualify for an injury award is defined as follows:

“a person who ceases or has ceased to be a member of a police force and is permanently disabled as a result of an injury received without his own default in the execution of his duty…”

13

Regulation 7(1) defines “permanently disabled” as follows:

“(1) …a reference...

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