A legal victory involving a Birmingham barrister in a key test case could open the door to thousands of costly claims after a court ruled pensions for injured retired police officers have been unlawfully cut.
The court case involving David Lock QC from No5 Chambers concerned former police inspector Edward Crudace, who served with the Northumbria police.
Mr Crudace, now aged 67, was seriously injured whilst arresting a prisoner and was forced to retire.
He was awarded a substantial police injury pension but when he reached the age of 65 it was slashed by Northumbria Police, relying on Home Office guidance, leaving Mr Crudace with a vastly reduced income.
The High Court in Leeds heard Mr Lock condemn the Home Office guidance as unlawful because it led to police injury pensions routinely being reduced to the lowest level when former officers reached the age of 65.
His Honour Judge Behrens released a judgement upholding the criticisms and quashing the decision of the Northumbria police to reduce Mr Crudace’s pension.
He decided the Home Office guidance was unlawful because it was inconsistent with the statutory scheme under which the pensions were paid.
Judge Behrens also confirmed former police officers who have had their pensions reduced in this way are entitled apply to the police authority for the decisions to be reversed and for their pensions to be restored.
Ron Thompson of Lake Jackson solicitors said: “This judgement opens the door for thousands of injured police officers who have had their pensions reduced unlawfully to apply to have the 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. If they do not it seems inevitable they will face further legal actions as former injured officers assert their right to the pension to which they are entitled.
“I also hope the Home Office recognises that the fault for this misconceived guidance lies with officials at the Home Office rather than individual police forces. The cost of putting this debacle right ought to be met by the Home Office and not individual police forces.”
Mr Crudace said: “I always knew that my pension had been wrongly reduced but Northumbria Police Authority refused to accept this, and have wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayers money attempting to defend an unlawful decision.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to my superb legal team, Mr Ron Thompson and David Lock QC, who took this case on a “no-win, no fee” arrangement despite all its risks.”