QUEENS BENCH DIVISION
London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| THE QUEEN on the application of Sussex Police Authority
|- and -
|Dr Edwin Beck
|- and -
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited, 190 Fleet Street
London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7421 4040, Fax No: 020 7831 8838
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
Mr Anthony Hudson (instructed by Russell Jones & Walker) for the Interested Party
The Defendant did not appear and was not represented
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Keith:
The background facts
"A regular policeman……who ceases or has ceased to be such…..shall, on so ceasing to be a regular policeman, …...be entitled to a deferred pension….."
Such a deferred pension would be payable to him at the age of 60, but sooner if he became permanently disabled. That was the effect of reg. B5(4)(a):
"…..no payment shall be made on account of [a deferred] pension…..in respect of the period before the regular policeman attains the age of 60 years or, if he sooner becomes permanently disabled, before he becomes so disabled….."
Despite the findings which had been made in the course of the disciplinary proceedings, Mr Hamlin applied for the early payment of his deferred pension under reg. B5 on the ground that he had become permanently disabled as a result of back pain and depression. He also sought an injury award under reg. B4. Such an award consists of a gratuity and an injury pension (reg. B4(2)). Mr Hamlin would have been entitled to such an award if he was "permanently disabled as a result of an injury received without his own default in the execution of his duty" (reg. B4(1)). As the police authority of the Force in which Mr Hamlin had last served, the claimant, the Sussex Police Authority ("the Authority"), was the body by whom his deferred pension and any injury award was payable (reg. L1(1)).
"Where the police authority are considering whether a person is permanently disabled, they shall refer for decision to a duly qualified medical practitioner selected by them the following questions –
(a) whether the person concerned is disabled;
(b) whether the disablement is likely to be permanent;
and, if they are further considering whether to grant an injury pension, shall so refer the following questions:-
(c) whether the disablement is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty, and
(d) the degree of the person's disablement ….."
In view of the findings which had been made in the course of the disciplinary proceedings, the Authority declined to refer any of these questions to a medical practitioner. Mr Hamlin had a right of appeal to the Crown Court against that refusal (reg. H5(1)), and on 19 April 2002 the Crown Court at Lewes allowed Mr Hamlin's appeal, and ordered the Authority to refer to a duly qualified medical practitioner selected by it the two questions set out in regs. H1(2)(a) and H1(2)(b), i.e. whether Mr Hamlin was disabled, and whether the disablement was likely to be permanent. However, Mr Hamlin did not pursue his appeal relating to the two questions set out in regs. H1(2)(c) and H1(2)(d), i..e. whether the disablement was the result of an injury received in the execution of duty and the degree of that disablement, and the Authority was not ordered to refer those questions.
The relevant definitions in the Regulations
"…..disablement means inability, occasioned by infirmity of mind or body, to perform the ordinary duties of a male or female member of the force, as the case may be….."
The words "permanently disabled" are defined in reg. A12(1):
"A reference in these Regulations to a person being permanently disabled is to be taken as a reference to that person being disabled at the time when the question arises for decision and to that disablement being at that time likely to be permanent."
It should be noted that the document published by the Police Negotiating Board stated that "'permanent disablement' should be interpreted as meaning that the officer will not be able to work again as a police officer before the compulsory retirement age for the officer concerned, on the assumption that normal medical treatment for the officer's condition is applied in the meantime." It should also be noted that in the Stewart case, the Court of Appeal held that the "ordinary duties" of a police officer include operational duties, and therefore an officer who was able to perform administrative duties but unable to perform operational duties was disabled for the purposes of the Regulations.
Dr Beck's report
"There is no doubt that at present he is suffering from anxiety-linked depression. In my view he is also exhibiting the hallmarks of a significant affective personality disorder in the form of an obsessive compulsive neurosis. This is a not unusual concomitant of depressive illnesses. He has become completely obsessed by his perceived maltreatment by the Sussex Police….."
He added a little later on:
"The break-up of his marriage and his wife's subsequent vindictive behaviour have significantly added to the stress suffered by Mr Hamlin over the past year or so."
But so far as Mr Hamlin's physical symptoms were concerned, Dr Beck wrote:
"Physical examination of Mr Hamlin was unremarkable.…..In my opinion his spinal movement is commensurate with the expected degree of spinal degeneration for a man of his age."
Dr Beck's conclusions are set out in para. 8 of his report, which are worth repeating in full:
"Opinion. In my opinion Mr Hamlin is still suffering from the anxiety-linked depression which started in 1998 following an injury at work and has not responded to treatment. This makes him currently unfit for work. The cause of his condition is primarily linked to his complete and deep-seated lack of confidence in the way he has subsequently been dealt with by the Sussex Police. The stress caused to him by this has been exacerbated by the acrimonious and painful breakdown of his marriage and the vindictive behaviour by his ex-wife in her attempts to discredit him.
The question whether Mr Hamlin's unfitness is permanent is problematic. As pointed out in his report, Dr Lipsedge drew attention to the fact that apart from some short-term psychotherapy Mr Hamlin has received only one class of medication for his depressive disorder. Despite increases in the dosage, this has singularly failed to control the symptoms adequately. While there are considerable difficulties in doing so, it is my opinion that Mr Hamlin has not had adequate treatment for his condition and it is past the time to 'bite the bullet' and change his medication. In my view, his condition will persist while he remains in conflict with the Force as his antipathy is now so deep-seated and consuming. If he could completely remove himself from this situation, close the door on it and start anew, his mental condition and the associated psychosomatic symptoms he suffers as a result should be eminently amenable to treatment. It seems most unlikely that he will be able to disassociate himself from his past experiences."
|3. The disablement is/
I recommend therefore that the police authority should consider in …2…
I do not recommend that the police authority should consider at any time whether the disablement has ceased.
|4. The above condition is/
|5. Currently The degree to which the officer's earning capacity has been affected is …50… per cent (see note (c) below).|
|I recommend that the police authority should consider in …2…
(The printed part of the certificate is in normal typeface, the parts completed by Dr Beck are in italics, and the parts deleted by him are also shown).
"In my judgement, his initial problems did not warrant medical retirement. By December 2001 his anxiety-linked depression was well established and it was almost exactly a year since he had failed to gain medical retirement. Also during that time he had taken up a number of other matters of contention with Sussex Police. In January 2001 he was seen by Dr Lipsedge, a psychiatrist with considerable experience of police work, who agreed that he suffered from a depressive illness but considered that it was not permanent. Mr Hamlin did not therefore meet the requirements for medical retirement at that time. Much has happened since then. Not least is that he has had almost two years in which his resentment has festered in his mind and about which he has become obsessive. His present sense of injustice and loss of faith in the Force is such that he would not consider further service under any circumstances. It is virtually certain that his attitude will never change and therefore his depressive illness is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. This established 'mind-set' of his is, I believe, related to his personality and not to his psychiatric illness. Nevertheless in his present mental state he is unfit for employment, certainly in any capacity in the Force and elsewhere. With more effective treatment of his depressive illness his attitude should soften but it is improbable that it will disappear. Thus in due course he should become fit for employment, but not in the Force."
I shall be referring to that letter later, but if Dr Beck's comment about Mr Hamlin not being prepared to "consider further service under any circumstances" suggests that Dr Beck thought that Mr Hamlin might be able to become a police officer again if he wanted to, that ignores the circumstances in which his police service came to an end.
The challenge to Dr Beck's certificate