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Keith Bryant QC successful in resisting High Court human rights and age discrimination challenge to police pension scheme


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In this case concerning police pensions, the claimant married couple claimed that it was a breach of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and unlawful age discrimination not to grant widow’s benefit to Mrs Carter, if Mr Carter dies before her, on the basis that they only married after Mr Carter retired from police service in 1977.

Police pensions are governed by statutory rules under which members have a right of appeal on certain matters to the Crown Court but, in a judgment handed down on 13 June 2019 (R (Carter) v Chelmsford Crown Court and others [2019] EWHC 1484 (Admin), [2019] ICR 1470), the Divisional Court (Coulson LJ and Andrew Baker J) held that this right does not apply to contingent rights, such as a right to widow’s benefit where the relevant member is still alive.

Instead, the Divisional Court held (in the first case to consider this point) that the claimants in this case should seek declaratory relief from the High Court (QBD) by way of Part 8 proceedings.

Following a two day trial of the Part 8 QB proceedings in September 2019, Pepperall J has now (on 21 January 2020) handed down judgment dismissing the claim.

Of particular interest are his findings that:

  • the claim could not succeed because it sought to give retrospective effect to both domestic and European legislation, and
  • in any event, the rule in force for pensionable service up to 1978, which excluded a widow from receiving widow’s benefit when she was not married to the relevant police officer at the time of his retirement, was justified.

Keith Bryant QC appeared for the Home Secretary, the interested party. The full judgment may be found here.

Keith’s pensions practice covers both contentious and non-contentious work. He acts for and advises a wide range of clients including trustees, employers, scheme advisers and trade unions. Should you wish to instruct Keith, please  contact Nick Levett (+44 (0)20 7427 4908) or or Adam Macdonald (+44 (0)20 7427 4906).


Barristers: Keith Bryant QC
Categories: News