This piece first appeared in The Weekly Telegraph on 12 June 2002
The text here may not be identical to the published text
Time is running out for South African pensioner Annette Carson to appeal against the decision in her frozen pension test case against the British government. The notice of appeal was filed last Thursday (6 June) but the Weekly Telegraph has learned that the appeal will be withdrawn by the middle of next week if neither the Canadian or Australian government promises to pay a substantial part of the costs of the case.
Annette Carson, 61, went to court to overturn the longstanding practice of the British Government to freeze state retirement pensions paid in more than 100 foreign countries. UK Pensions are paid in full to expatriates living in the European Union, America and 25 other countries. But everywhere else in the world - including Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand - they are frozen at the rate first paid abroad and do not rise with inflation.
Annette claimed this policy breached the Human Rights Act and discriminated against her and half a million other pensioners with frozen pensions. However, three weeks ago on May 22 Annette Carson lost her case in the High Court and, in a surprise move, the judge Mr Justice Burnton, ordered that she should pay the costs of the Government's legal team as well as her own. She can appeal. But if she does, the case could go through three further hearings, culminating in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That would leave Annette picking up a bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Government's defence, as well as having to raise the money to pay her own legal costs. That is something her lawyer, Graham Chrystie of London solicitors Thomas Eggar, says he cannot advise her to do unless someone else promises to pay at least the costs of the other side.
"An indemnity against the Department for Work and Pension's costs is essential. I cannot advise her to proceed without that. The Canadian Government has been more than helpful and Australia has paid its own lawyers in London to keep a watching brief. But we have told them we will withdraw our appeal unless she is indemnified against the Government's costs, and reasonable provision for all her costs is in place."
Annette herself is anxiously awaiting the outcome of these negotiations. "I am very keen to appeal, not just for myself but for the half a million frozen pensioners around the world. My lawyers are confident we have grounds to make a successful appeal but it all depends on whether we can get the funds."
The grounds for appeal have to be lodged with the court by Wednesday June 19. That leaves just over a week to get an agreement on funding the case. Annette is being supported by the South African Alliance of British Pensioners. Money has already been raised from some of its 7500 members and more has been donated by frozen pensioners in Canada. But SAABP chairman
Charles Poole says the contribution from at least one of the governments is essential.
"We have had strong support from the two governments but we need guarantees on the table. What we will be able to do by June 19 will depend on whether we have this financial backing."
However, Alan Kessel [one l correct] the Minister for Political Affairs at the Canadian High Commission in London told the Weekly Telegraph "The question of an appeal and funding must entirely lie in the hands of Mrs Carson and her lawyers at the moment. The Canadian government is very interested in what is happening in the case and will remain interested but I have nothing to add on the question of the appeal or of funding."
Paul Dacam - a partner at London solicitors Lovell's who has been retained by the Australian government to keep a watching brief on the case in London - said "I can't comment on the appeal or whether it will be withdrawn but the Australian government is considering all options. It is with the Minister and they haven't made any decision. If there is a funding issue they will be considering it."
12 June 2002