Willis And Others V The Pensions Ombudsman And Emer Lawlor

Author:Mr Bryan Dunne
Profession:Matheson
 
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The judgment of President Kearns in the case of Willis and Others v. The Pensions Ombudsman and Emer Lawlor [2013] IEHC 352 was delivered on 22 July 2013 in the High Court. In summary, the High Court rejected the appeal of the trustees (the "Trustees") of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Superannuation Fund (the "IBTS Scheme") against a final determination of the Pensions Ombudsman (the "Ombudsman"). The Ombudsman had determined that the Trustees had been incorrect in reducing the pension entitlements of a member of the IBTS Scheme, after her salary had been reduced pursuant to section 2 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 (the "Act").

Background

Section 2 of the Act introduced cuts in the remuneration of public servants. Section 3 of the Act provided that section 2 was to be disregarded for the purposes of calculating the pension entitlements of a public servant where the individual retired before 29 February 2012. The member in this case retired in October 2011. The member's employer had reduced her wages in accordance with the Act, and the Trustees had based her pension entitlements on the reduced amount. Her claim to the Ombudsman was that section 2 of the Act had applied to her, but that section 3 had been disregarded. The member's complaint was upheld by the Ombudsman, who directed that the Trustees should restore her pension to a level calculated by reference to her salary prior to the application of the pay cuts mandated by the Act. The determination was subsequently appealed to the High Court by the Trustees in accordance with section 140 of the Pension's Act 1990 (as amended). In the High Court, the Trustees contended that the IBTS Scheme could not be categorised as a public service pension scheme, and thus the member could not be considered a public servant, thereby falling outside the remit of the Act. The Trustees argued that the member's salary had not been reduced pursuant to the Act and they sought to introduce evidence to show that the employer disputed the application of the Act to its...

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