Pensions  

Woman wins right to military pension in landmark ruling

Woman wins right to military pension in landmark ruling

A woman has won the right to her late partner’s military pension plus compensation in a landmark ruling for unmarried couples.

Air Commodore Christopher Green, a serving officer in the Royal Air Force, had been in a relationship with Jane Langford for 15 years when he died unexpectedly in 2011.

The RAF pension scheme provides for unmarried partners of officers to receive a pension in the event of an officer’s death. 

However, the RAF refused to pay Ms Langford a pension because she had not dissolved her marriage to her ex-partner, despite being estranged from him for 17 years.

This is because pension regulation states that a surviving partner will be disqualified from receiving the pension if they are married to another person.

Yesterday (July 17), the Court of Appeal ruled that this breached Ms Langford’s human rights after her case was previously dismissed by the High Court in 2015.

Lord Justice McCombe criticised the RAF for refusing to give Ms Langford her late partner’s pension. 

He said: "The relaxed way in which the minister and/or her advisers approached the procedural requirements in this case is not acceptable on the part of any litigant, whoever he or she may be."

The decision is expected to have far-reaching consequences. This is because the rule which was held to be unlawful in Ms Langford’s case is found in most public sector pension schemes including education, the police, fire service, NHS and civil service.

Anyone who has previously been refused a partner's pension because they had not divorced an ex-partner may now be able to bring a claim, including for back payments.

Al Rush, principal at Echelon Wealthcare, said: "The definition of interdependence is the most interesting thing, in particular how this definition will be established by the scheme trustees.

"Members of the armed forces pension scheme have experienced massive volatility in their terms and conditions and rules surrounding the pension scheme and so now is the right time to have a pension body to clarify their interest as currently they do not have a pensions body to look after them.

"The armed forces need certainty, especially when it comes to pensions, as they are the ones putting their lives at risk."

amy.austin@ft.com

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