Retired police injured on duty face pension cut

RETIRED Northumbria Police officers left disabled after being attacked or injured in accidents are facing pension cuts.

Campaigners claim Home Office guidelines which target former officers over the age of 65 are being used unfairly by a small number of forces to help save money.

And Northumbria Police has been accused of being one of the harshest in the country.

Former Pc Gerald Lang, from Whitley Bay, has seen his monthly pension fall from 1,600 to 890.

Mr Lang, who served for 20 years, had to retire in 1991 after a drunken driver crashed into his car, leaving him with a broken chest bone and back injuries.

The 67-year-old said: "I think this is diabolical.

"My pension has been virtually halved and it is going to hit us really hard.

"What sort of a message does it send out today's officers who might be injured trying to tackle criminals?"

The National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) attacked the cutbacks, saying although the Home Office circular was issued five years ago, Northumbria only brought in the cuts this month and is one of a small number of forces taking such a tough line.

NARPO, with more than 76,000 members, says the exact number of pensioners affected is not yet known, although it is believed to affect hundreds of men and women, mainly in Northumbria, as well as several other forces.

A NARPO spokesman said: "We deplore the actions of Northumbria Police Authority in their action of reducing at a stroke the injury benefit of our local members over the age of 65.

"Northumbria appears to have decided to reduce all those people in receipt of this award who are over 65, simply by notifying them of the fact and without going through a proper review procedure.

"This looks like an effort on behalf of the police authority to simply save money at the expense of the weakest, former officers injured in their duty of protecting the public.

"Whilst NARPO acknowledge the right of police authorities to review those on injury awards, we think it is a cynical move to use a Home Office advisory circular to disguise the fact that they have a good deal of discretion in the timing and regularity of any reviews of this nature.

"In any case we believe that to reduce payments to those over 65 years, who have come to expect a certain level of income including that in respect of the injury award and have set their lifestyle accordingly, is both unfair and outside the general spirit of the Home Office advice."

A Northumbria Police spokesman said the force provides injury awards to over 500 former offices to compensate for lost earnings. These are reviewed at the age of 65.

"As a result of our review process, there were a number of former officers who were notified in April 2008 that their injury award would be reduced in April 2009," he said.

"Reductions in injury awards will result in savings to the authority.

"However these cannot be quantified until such times as any associated appeal process regarding the reduction has been concluded.

"Neither Northumbria Police nor the police authority would wish in any way to diminish the considerable contributions that former officers have made to the force, our review process is driven by Home Office guidance and compliance with this process ensures appropriate use of public money."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The guidance was an attempt to bring some consistency to the process, but it makes the point that each case must be considered on its own merits.

"Any officer who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a review of their injury pension can appeal to the Police Medical Appeal Board."