This piece first appeared in The Weekly Telegraph on 26 June 2002
The text here may not be identical to the published text
Annette Carson's appeal against a High Court decision that the British government was entitled to freeze her UK retirement pension is to go ahead - for now. But unless more money is forthcoming the appeal could be withdrawn.
Mrs Carson lost her case in May when Mr Justice Burnton ruled in the High Court in London that the British Government had not breached the Human Rights Act by freezing the retirement pension paid to Mrs Carson who lives in South Africa. Half a million pensioners living mainly in Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand are in the same position as Mrs Carson. They can claim their UK pension but once paid abroad it is frozen and never rises with inflation. Mrs Carson's pension is already £10 a week less than it would be if she lived in the UK or in 40 other countries where the pension is not frozen in this way.
If Annette won, all these pensions paid throughout the world would be unfrozen and paid at the rate current in the UK. That would cost the British government an estimated £400 million a year. Despite the importance of her personal struggle as a test case, the costs of her own lawyers and those of the other side if she loses still have to be paid by Annette.
A last minute deal between the Canadian Government and pensioner groups there has made sure that the costs so far - probably totalling around £100,000 - have now been met in full, including the costs of the British Government's lawyers which the court ruled Annette had to pay. In addition the British Australian Pensioners Association has provided some money as have the two Canadian pensioner associations.
Annette Carson told The Telegraph
"I am very pleased that we are able to press ahead with the appeal. We have enough money now to cover our known liabilities. The Canadian Government has agreed to fund £50,000 of her costs, removing the burden of paying the risk of personal bankruptcy and campaigners are hopeful. I am still hoping we may be able to persuade the Canadian Government to support us with a further injection because the existing funds will not take us the whole distance. If it happens that we fall short of our needs then we will have to say 'sorry we can't go ahead with the appeal'. I can't afford to take the risk of an appeal that piles costs on costs."
Her lawyer Graham Chrystie of City Solicitors Thomas Eggar said that the appeal was strong but money was still an issue.
"There are strong and substantial grounds of appeal. I cannot go into details at the moment but the judge has misdirected himself in many instances. We are very grateful indeed to the Canadians who have enabled this brave woman to fight on not just for herself but for around half a million pensioners worldwide. We have now lodged grounds for our appeal with the court. But we have to keep monitoring the funds because Annette Carson is a private citizen and must make sure she is covered for her own protection. What would really help is if someone came forward to indemnify her against the costs."
Douglas Ross, President of the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners claims that the decision by Mr Justice Brunton flew in the face of the intentions of the Human Rights Act which the British Home Secretary at the time, Jack Straw, said marked "a change in the constitutional relationship between citizens and the state...all state bodies including the courts must act in accordance with [European] Convention [on Human] Rights when making decisions"
He called on "concerned soon-to-be and current British pensioners in the UK and every country around the world to help end pension freezing by contacting us right away and supporting our costly campaign to pursue redress through the courts and in parliament. We need their strong support right now and continuing until this issue is satisfactorily resolved."
The appeal will be heard in London between the 6 December 2002 and 6 February 2003.
Donations can be sent via the website of the Canadian pensioners www.britishpensions.com or direct to South African Alliance of British Pensioners P.O. Box 862 Fointaintbleu 2032 South Africa Phone: +27 11 792 8160 Fax: +27 11 792 9669
26 June 2002