In the case of Nicholas Hamilton v Monmouthshire County Council the High Court upheld the Ombudsman’s decision that a member’s ill health benefit was payable from the date when the member applied for the incapacity benefit and not the earlier onset of the incapacity.
Mr Hamilton was employed under a fixed term contract which was not renewed when he did not return from sick leave in 2001. He became a deferred member of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). On 26 January 2005 he applied for early payment of his deferred benefits on the grounds of ill health, which his employer later approved. Mr Hamilton complained that his retirement should be back-dated to 1 April 2001 (the date after his original contract expired) rather than the date his incapacity was established in 2005.
The High Court agreed with the Ombudsman that the pension should not be back-dated to the onset of incapacity as, under the scheme rules, early payment of deferred benefits on basis of ill health was payable from the date of the appellant’s election and not earlier. The judge distinguished the case of Spreadborough v Wandsworth LBC which Mr Hamilton had relied on to show that it was possible to backdate to the date of onset of the incapacity rather than the date the condition was diagnosed. He did so on the basis that Spreadborough concerned a claim to re-open a failed application that had already been made. By contrast, Mr Hamilton’s application was one which had not already been made before.
Spreadborough was distinguished here as, under the rules of the LGPS, it was not possible to backdate the pension prior to the date of Mr Hamilton’s application. The principle of Spreadborugh that backdating may be appropriate where there is a retrospective diagnosis remains valid.