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No pension for ex-officer's second wife, court rules


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A judge has ruled that a retired officer's second wife cannot receive his pension after a High Court bid from the elderly couple.


Date - 24th January 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas

A former Essex officer has lost a High Court bid to have his second wife receive his pension.

Under the rules of his pension scheme, benefits can only go to the spouse of an officer during their service.

Eric Carter, who is 95, is a D-Day veteran and served with the force for nearly 30 years from 1948 and retired shortly before his wife, Jean, died in 1979.

Mr Carter, who lives in Birmingham, remarried in 1981. He has been with his second wife June for 38 years.

The scheme was changed in 1978 so that pensions are now payable to post-retirement widows in respect of their late partners’ service.

Mr Carter’s pension can only be paid to a widow who was married to him during the time that he was an officer.

This means that his current wife, who is in her 90s, would receive no benefit if she survives him.

The couple took the force to court, claiming the rules of the pension scheme – which have since been changed to allow pensions to be paid to “post-retirement widows” for service – were unlawfully discriminatory.

Mr Justice Pepperall dismissed Mr and Mrs Carter’s case on Tuesday.

Mrs Carter argued that the “exclusionary rule” in the pension scheme breached her rights under the Human Rights Act.

But Mr Justice Pepperall ruled she could not rely on the Human Rights Act, finding that “in this case, the effect of the exclusionary rule extinguished any right to a widow's pension decades ago".

He added: "Given that Mr Carter was married to Jean throughout his police service, the effect of (the rule) was that a widow's pension could only be paid to her.

"This position crystallised in 1977 when Mr Carter retired and there could be no question of any widow's pension in this case at any point following his first wife's death in 1979."

The Carters also argued that the rule indirectly discriminated against them as it operates disproportionately to the detriment of the widows of men over 90.

But Mr Justice Pepperall found they had failed to prove the rule put them at "a particular disadvantage" and dismissed the claim.

Mr Carter served in the Royal Marines at the end of the Second World War, and is one of the few survivors of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944.

The judge said Mr Carter had lived "a remarkable life", describing him as "one of the few surviving men who, with astonishing bravery, stormed the beaches under heavy enemy fire on D-Day".

He added: "All who take for granted the freedom of living in a peaceful and democratic society owe him and his generation an enormous debt."

The 1987 Police Pension Scheme provides a pension for the spouse of an officer who dies but the benefits stop if they remarry or cohabit with another partner.

The rules were amended in 2015 so that pensions of officers who died on duty could be kept by spouses who had gone on to remarry.

Paul Squire, Secretary of Essex Police Federation who had been supporting him throughout the process, said Mr Carter was “devastated” by the ruling.

Her said: “It was a sad and perverse judgement applied to a D-day hero without any real thought about why this unjust law was there in the first place.”

“Age old law that dates back to the turn of the 20th century brought in to prevent a gold digger marrying an Army general after he’s retired.”

Mr Squire said the case was not personal to the couple and Mr Carter’s driving motivation was challenging a “grossly unfair” rule.

He said the couple will considering grounds for an appeal.

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