In a unique decision, the High Court has ruled that a provision of the Police Pension Regulations that precluded payment of benefits to an officer’s illegitimate daughter who was not born until after his death is incompatible with human rights legislation.
The three-year-old girl was still in her mother’s womb when her policeman father suffered a fatal fall during a night out with colleagues. She was subsequently refused a Metropolitan Police ‘survivors pension’ on the basis that she was not yet born when her father died and that her parents were unmarried.
The girl, through her mother, launched High Court proceedings which were ultimately not resisted by the Metropolitan Police. In upholding her entitlement to financial provision from the force, the Court formally declared that the relevant provisions of the regulations were incompatible with her right to respect for family life, enshrined within Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The girl’s legal team had argued, “The effect of regulations is to discriminate against an illegitimate child born after the death of a serving police officer, compared with a legitimate child born in the same circumstances. There is no rational or legitimate justification for such discrimination.”
The Court ruled, “Very weighty reasons would have to be advanced before discrimination on the basis of birth out of wedlock could be regarded as compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Very weighty reasons are needed to justify discrimination against a child.
“It is not a legitimate aim to penalise the child for the decisions of its parents. That does not promote marriage or stable family relationships. The child does not bear responsibility for the state of its parents’ relationship.
“In my judgement such discrimination cannot be justified on objective or reasonable grounds. That being so, I make a declaration that the daughter is entitled to an ordinary allowance and has been so entitled since her birth.”