The BMA has secured a victory in the High Court over last year’s changes to the NHS pensions scheme in England and Wales.
There has been widespread criticism of the changes introduced last April which gave the Secretary of State for Health the power to withhold pension benefits from any doctor charged with certain criminal offences but not yet convicted.
The BMA pursued legal action on the basis that the changes breached human rights and equality legislation.
On Friday (17 January 2020), the Honorable Mrs Justice Andrews ruled in favour of the union. She said no explanation had been given as to “how the scope of the power to suspend (and, indirectly, the power to forfeit) came to be expanded to cover the period between charge and conviction, or what the thinking was behind it”.
She added that the Government had failed to draw a distinction between someone charged with a crime and someone convicted of a crime, despite the fundamental principle in law being that “every defendant to a criminal charge, however serious, and however compelling the evidence against him may appear, is presumed innocent until proved guilty to the criminal standard”.
Commenting on the judgement, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: “We could not allow the Government to simply disregard the fundamental principle that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. These rules assume guilt from the outset, with little regard for the impact on a doctor’s well-being, career or personal life.”