Thousands of retired police officers whose pensions were slashed have been given new hope after a High Court judge ruled the Government guidance which triggered the cuts was unlawful.
Campaigners say the decision means police forces, including Yorkshire’s largest, face having to make payments totalling millions of pounds to former officers who were forced to quit the service after being injured on duty.
It affects forces such as West Yorkshire, which followed advice in a controversial Home Office circular that recommended cutting spending on injury pensions for recipients aged over 65.
The issue was at the centre of a test case brought by former Inspector Edward Crudace, 67, who challenged Northumbria Police Authority’s decision to cut his pension entitlements.
Judge John Behrens, sitting in the High Court at Leeds, found the Home Office guidance was unlawful because it was inconsistent with the statutory scheme under which injury pensions were paid.
He quashed Northumbria’s decision to cut Mr Crudace’s pension and confirmed that other former officers whose payments were slashed were entitled to apply to their own police authorities for the money to be repaid.
York-based solicitor Ron Thompson said: “This judgment opens the door for thousands of injured police officers who have had their pensions reduced unlawfully to apply to have their decision reversed. When the decision is reviewed, they will be entitled to a pension at its proper level and, in many cases, to a substantial back payment.
“The right thing for police authorities to do now is to identify every former injured police officer whose pension has been wrongly reduced, and to agree to review each one.”
Mr Thompson has seen cases of pensions being cut by more than £10,000 a year and has suggested the Home Office should foot the bill.
The Yorkshire Post revealed in December how West Yorkshire Police had agreed to settle out of court, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds, with four officers whose injury pensions were reduced.
The force’s Deputy Chief Constable, David Crompton, said at the time that the deal had not set a legal precedent.
The chief executive of the National Association of Retired Police Officers, Clint Elliott, said: “I shall be writing to Northumbria to suggest the authority calls everybody whose pensions have been cut by this procedure and repay the money that is owed to them,” Mr Elliott added. “Our question to West Yorkshire is this – what are you going to do now?”
West Yorkshire Police Authority was unable to comment, but Northumbria Police Authority confirmed it would review its injury pension decisions “as a matter of urgency”.