A recent and “blatantly unjust” rule on remarriage has denied the reinstatement of a police pension to the widow of an officer killed as he and a colleague tried to stop a speeding van in 2002, Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach will tell the House of Lords today (Tuesday, 21 March, 2.30 pm).
Speaking before addressing the House, Lord Bach commented: “The fact that PC Andrew Munn and PC Bryan Moore were both killed as a result of the same crime on the same day simply accentuates this unfairness of this disparity.”
Both widows initially received their police widow’s pension under the 1987 Police Pension Regulations, which required forfeiture if they remarried. PC Munn’s widow Allison remarried in 2009 and she consequently lost the pension.
But, explained Lord Bach, changes to the rules last year meant that any widow, widower or civil partner in receipt of a so-called widow’s pension due to their partner dying in the line of duty would, from 1 April 2015, be treated as if the officer had opted for a ‘lifetime widow’s pension’.
While this benefited PC Moore’s widow Sarah as she remarried after that date, the earlier remarriage of PC Munn’s widow Allison Charlton and the resultant termination of her pension makes her ineligible for reinstatement.
“In effect, this latest change to the regulations puts a hideous price on happiness, treating so very differently two widows who have both had to face the loss of their husbands in the same horrific incident.” he said.
“It imposes unfair financial hardship on some bereaved wives, husbands and partners who have experienced terrible, unimaginable loss. The changes in pension rules have had seismic consequences for some people and their families.”
Lord Bach is supporting a campaign to retrospectively reinstate this pension to those whose police officer partner died in the line of duty, regardless of whether and when they had remarried. As part of this support, his question in the House of Lords asks Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy with regard to the pension rights of spouses and civil partners of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
It is, he argues, “a travesty that one widow should lose her pension and the other not. Why should anyone be penalised if they get married again? This is a bad decision that puts a heavy price on the right to move on with your life, including happiness and remarriage. This is especially unfair when there has already been so much distress for spouses and children left behind.”
The issue was brought to Lord Bach’s attention by Leicestershire Police Federation Secretary, Matt Robinson, who said: “I have supported this campaign wholeheartedly as it is just simply wrong that Allison should lose her pension for a life choice of being happy with her new partner. I remember the tragic circumstances of the day Andy and Bryan were killed and they bring a unique angle to this issue.
“This injustice should be put right and a small change which is actually cost-neutral would make a massive difference to Allison and people in the same position."
Lord Bach points out: “We should all remember the risks facing our police officers everyday. They put their lives on the line to protect our safety. This, surely, puts an onus on us to ensure that their loved ones are – without question or quibble – financially cared for if the worst happens.”
The judge who presided over the court case into the killing of PC Munn and PC Moore had said of the officers: “They unhesitatingly attempted to make a decision which could have prevented injury or death to other members of the public. It is upon such devoted service that the public, often unwittingly, relies. The greatest tragedy is that such service cost them their lives.”
When PC Munn was killed he left his wife Allison and their two young children aged nine and three. PC Moore was also a family man, leaving his wife Sarah and their three children aged 13, 11 and ten.
Lord Bach’s heartfelt appeal also refers back to the introduction of new pension regulations in 2006 for new starters, with existing scheme members then given the option to transfer to the new one. Under the new arrangements spouses of those who joined after 2006 were therefore entitled to a pension for life regardless of any change in personal relationship status as long as the new scheme had been opted into.
Last year, the original arrangements were amended to reflect the circumstances applying to members of the 2006 pension scheme, so that anyone in receipt of a widow’s pension as a result of their partner dying in the line of duty as from 1 April 2015 would be treated as if their deceased spouse had opted for a lifetime widow’s pension under the 2006 scheme.
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Posted on Tuesday 21st March 2017