Police 'approach Home Office in retirement bailout plea'

Police officers in high-visibility coats Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Hundreds of officers have been forced to retire since 2010

Police forces have approached the government for a multimillion-pound bailout if they lose a legal action over forced retirements.

More than 1,000 senior officers were forced to leave after 30 years' service under regulation A19, used by 15 forces to make financial savings.

A judgement on whether this was age discrimination is expected in May.

Five forces have formally approached the Home Office for help if the ruling goes against them, the BBC understands.

The Home Office said it was not in discussions with individual forces about A19.

'No choice'

More than 1,000 former senior police officers across England and Wales are seeking compensation after being forced to retire.

Officers from Devon and Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, West Midlands, North Wales and South Wales took part in the legal challenge.

An employment tribunal in February 2014 decided there had been age discrimination, but police forces appealed against the ruling and judgment is expected by the end of May.

The BBC understands Nottinghamshire Police has made contingency plans for payouts of up to £3.5m.

A police source at Devon and Cornwall Police told BBC South West's Home Affairs correspondent Simon Hall it had "no choice" but to ask the government for help.

The source said the sums involved "could run into tens of millions of pounds", depending on the details of the judgment, adding it would be "completely unaffordable given how forces have already suffered severe budget cuts".

Analysis: Simon Hall, South West Home Affairs Correspondent

Image copyright PA

The officers concerned tend to be among the highest paid and many would have been forced to retire aged around only 50.

If they could show they wanted to work for several more years, that suggests a total compensation bill of tens of millions of pounds.

The actual calculation a tribunal would carry out is complex, but even such rough guesses illustrate why - given the context of the budget cuts police forces have already implemented - there is so much concern amongst senior officers about the outcome of the A19 case.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it would "await an announcement from the tribunal appeal before making any further statements".

Nottinghamshire Police and West Midlands Police declined to comment. No one from North Wales Police or South Wales Police could be reached for comment.

BBC News has also learnt the Police and Crime Commissioner in Devon and Cornwall has been approached about using reserves to fund any potential claims.

In a statement, Tony Hogg's office said: "The PCC has been kept informed at all stages of this matter. The case is currently under appeal and it would inappropriate to comment further."

The Home Office said it was "not in discussions with any individual police force about providing financial assistance in relation to the tribunal on regulation A19".

Nigel Rabbitts, chair of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, said: "We always said A19 was unfair. Its use has caused a great deal of damage to the lives of many dedicated officers."

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