Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Monday, 4 February 2008

Go-ahead for police pay challenge

A police officer
Police lawyers argue officers are getting a rise lower than inflation

Police officers have been given permission to launch a High Court challenge to a government decision not to backdate their pay rise.

Mr Justice Collins said he had "no hesitation" in ruling there was a case to apply for judicial review.

Police Federation lawyers are challenging a Home Office decision not to backdate a 2.5% pay rise for police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Home Office said it would not comment as it was now a court matter.

The federation says the decision means the rise is only 1.9% in annual terms.

I don't think I would have had any hesitation granting permission
Mr Justice Collins

Its lawyers told the High Court officers had a "legitimate expectation" they would receive the full 2.5% increase decided through the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal.

While officers in Scotland are having their 2.5% pay rise backdated to 1 September - the start of the police pay year - as the tribunal recommended, those in other areas are receiving it in full only from December.

This, officers say, will amount in annual terms to an increase of only 1.9%.

Both Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Prime Minister Gordon Brown have argued the award is appropriate and is in line with inflation targets - in particular, it is within the government's 2% public sector pay limit.

Giving the go-ahead for the challenge, Mr Justice Collins told the court: "I don't think I would have had any hesitation granting permission."

Human rights

The Police Federation is being joined by police superintendents and chief police officers in mounting the legal action, brought in the name of the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board (PNB).

They argue that Ms Smith does not have the power to overrule the pay tribunal's decision unless it is of "utmost national importance".

The court is probably the last avenue left open to us
John Francis
Police Federation

They are also mounting their challenge on the grounds that Ms Smith's decision was an "abuse of the PNB process" because she failed to inform the federation of her decision before announcing it.

The action also claims the human rights of police officers are being infringed because they are unable to strike over pay.

Jan Berry, chairwoman of the Police Federation in England and Wales, said the court's decision was "a positive step for the 140,000 police officers across England and Wales in their fight for fair pay".

"The fact that our application for a judicial review has been successful adds weight to what we have been saying all along - that the Home Secretary betrayed police officers by failing to honour the decision of the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal."

A Home Office Spokesman said: "We are aware that permission has been granted for a hearing in this matter."

However, she said, it was not appropriate to comment further as it was now a matter for the courts.

'Hot water'

More than 20,000 officers marched through Westminster last month in protest at the decision not to backdate their pay award.

John Francis, general secretary of the federation, added: "The court is probably the last avenue left open to us."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said the government was "getting into more and more hot water on this police pay decision, because it is trying to defend the indefensible".

The two-day hearing will take place before two judges on 15 and 16 April.

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