Wayne Couzens is a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder, kidnap rape, abduction and other sexual offences. He is unlikely ever to be released and so will die a prisoner.
As a serving police officer he built up two pensions, the pension he accrued while serving in the Met has been stripped from him at the request of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, this is standard procedure in cases of gross misconduct. But Couzens has a second pension, he joined the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) in 2011 and served seven years before transferring to the Met in 2018. This cannot be stripped from him so easily. Indeed it would take an intervention from Government to take this pension away.
This poses some interesting legal and ethical arguments which will not just be troubling Couzens, it would seem that the police is troubled by systemic issues with the conduct of its workforce. Similar problems appear to be surfacing in other areas of the public sector where generous pension rights may be at risk.
Should losing a pension be part of the punishment for a crime?
There is , with Couzens, the practical issue of how his pension could benefit him. Prison does not afford many (legal) opportunities to spend money and while we may feel there is no punishment too bad for Couzens, the loss of a pension he will little benefit from seems a lot of work for what seems a token punishment.
A Government intervention would also open the door to further action, how many criminals currently behind bars are potentially recipients of occupational pensions or own pension rights?
Unless the right to a pension is linked to conduct, and this is rare, then pensions are ring-fenced and payable even to those serving whole life sentences.
There is a further issue where there are beneficiaries of residual pensions or inheritable pots. Should the families of convicted prisoners be punished by losing the security of inheritable pension rights?
I find answers to these questions hard. There are few ways that a whole of life prisoner can show practical remorse, but assigning a pension voluntarily is one of them.
Perhaps the best solution for Wayne Couzens would be for him to assign his pension to a dependent, and failing there being any dependant, to a victim’s charity.
Stripping prisoners of pensions is not something we should encourage. We have enough insecurity about pensions as it is.