Police lose pay rise challenge

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Police officers today lost their High Court battle over Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's refusal to award them a recommended 2.5 per cent pay increase in full.

Police Federation lawyers accused the minister of approaching police pay "with a closed mind".

They argued that she was complying with "Treasury diktat" when she shaved off three months worth of the recommended increase by refusing to backdate it, effectively reducing the award to 1.9 per cent.

Two judges in London heard that the decision - which applies to officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not Scotland - results in a £200 loss in average pay in the current pay year.

Today Lord Justice Keene and Mr Justice Treacy recognised that police officers were in "a difficult position over pay" and were denied the right to strike.

But they ruled the Home Secretary had not acted unlawfully.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales and chairman of the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board, said after the judgment: "We are extremely disappointed with the decision of the court, but we take heart that we have won the moral case.

"This has been demonstrated by the tremendous support shown by the public and politicians of all political parties who have voiced their anger and concern at the way this Government has treated police officers across the UK."

The judicial review application was brought by Police Federation general secretary John Francis and the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board.

They contended that police forces around the country had a "legitimate expectation" that they would receive the full 2.5 per cent increase recommended by the Police Appeal Tribunal.

At stake was the "morale and confidence of the police in the statutory procedures for determining their pay," their lawyers argued at a hearing last April that led to today's ruling.

Ms Smith had failed to recognise the special and unique position of the police and the restrictions on their freedom of action, including the right to strike, it was argued.

In contrast, police in Scotland received their full pay rise because it was backdated to the beginning of the police financial year in September.

Rejecting the application for judicial review, Lord Justice Keene said: "One can readily appreciate that police officers are in a difficult position over pay. They are denied the right to strike.

"In its place is put negotiating and arbitration machinery, but the outcome of those processes is not binding on the eventual decision maker, the Home Secretary.

"Whether that is a satisfactory situation is not a matter for this court.

"It is embodied in the current statutory provisions, and if there is to be any change, it would have to come through legislation.

"None of the attempts of the claimants to demonstrate that the Home Secretary has acted ultra vires (beyond her powers) or otherwise unlawfully in making her decision of 6 December 2007 succeeds, for the reasons I have set out."

The judge said the only legitimate expectation the police had - "that the Home Secretary will not lightly set aside a PNB recommendation or PAT award, but will only do so for good reasons" - had not been frustrated.

He ruled: "She had reasons which she was entitled to regard as being of greater weight than the PAT award, and she explained those reasons with sufficient clarity.

"It would follow that I refuse this application for judicial review."