Jason Beer QC successful in Court of Appeal in police pensions case with national implications
Today the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in an important case with significant implications for a large number of retired police officers who receive policy injury pensions pursuant to either the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 or the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006: Ashcroft & Evans v Chief Constable of South Wales Police. The result means that the police service will not have to pay very significant sums of money, estimated to be millions of pounds, to retired police officers.
The Regulations permit the deduction from the pension payments made to injured police pensioners such sums as they are entitled to be paid by way of certain State welfare benefits. The practice of the police service had been to deduct the sums in fact paid or due to such pensioners by way of the relevant welfare benefits in each year after their retirement. Two former South Wales Police (“SWP”) officers challenged that approach, contending that the deductions should be limited to the sums to which they were entitled in the year of their retirement – and that, accordingly, any increases in welfare benefits should not be taken into account in calculating the deductions.
The High Court rejected this claim, agreeing with SWP that (i) it was inconsistent with a plain and ordinary reading of the regulations, (ii) the officers’ approach would lead to over or double recovery by them when this would “make no sense”, and (iii) its construction was consistent with the purpose of the regulations. The retired officers were given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, holding that the Chief Constable’s construction of the Regulations produces a coherent and rational result, whereas the Appellants’ construction produces a windfall benefit for retired officers in receipt of injury pensions which would become increasing valuable as years go by, assuming price inflation to continue, and which was entirely at odds with the basic requirement in the Regulations that the full amount of additional benefits should be deducted.
Jason Beer QC acted for South Wales Police. He specialises in public law.