A FORMER police officer forced to take early retirement after a serious injury has had to drop a £1 million compensation case against a health board because of a conflict of interest involving the sheriff.

Lynsey Henderson, 43, was a serving officer for 18 years before her career was ended by injury in September 2011, when she slipped off a kerb while off duty.

Within two days she had excruciating pain in her back and leg, alternating with numbness and attended Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock. A nurse diagnosed sciatica and gave her a painkilling injection and tablets.

Three days later Mrs Henderson could suffer no longer and her husband drove her to Loudoun Medical Centre in Darvel, where she lives.

Mrs Henderson said: “When I told the GP about my pelvic numbness he went out the room, came back with a letter and said, ‘Get straight to Crosshouse accident and emergency and someone will be waiting for you. That’s when I began to panic.”

At Crosshouse Hospital, Mrs Henderson was given an MRI scan then taken by ambulance to Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital.

She added: “Realisation and panic set in. I was distraught. It was the main centre for neurosurgery so I knew it must be more than sciatica. The MRI had shown a prolapsed disc that had been lying on all the nerve endings for my leg, bowel and bladder for five days. The disc had fragmented.”

Mrs Henderson was medically retired in October 2013 losing her £30,000 salary with her only income now just £4,600 a year as a school crossing attendant, supplementing her earnings with two part-time catering jobs.

She has been diagnosed with the rare but serious neurologic condition, cauda equina syndrome, which causes loss of function of the nerve roots below the spinal cord. Her legal team set a figure of £1 million compensation for loss of earnings and future pay, pension, pain and suffering, to be paid by Ayrshire and Arran Health Board for alleged failings arising from her emergency appointment. The case was heard over three days at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court last month, during which Mrs Henderson gave upsetting and highly personal evidence to her own advocate and was cross-examined by counsel for the health board.

But on the third day, moments before the nurse who had first seen Mrs Henderson was to answer questions about the initial examination, the woman realised presiding Sheriff Shirley Foran had handled her divorce proceedings in 2007, when she was a solicitor.

Mrs Henderson’s counsel raised the issue of the sheriff having potentially formed an opinion of the witness during their client- solicitor relationship, and moved that she recuse, or remove, herself from the case.

Sheriff Foran, upheld the motion, saying: “I do so with the deepest of regret. I wish I had observed it sooner.” She added she was “very sorry” about the time and expense incurred and the stress Mrs Henderson had gone through.

The situation left Mrs Henderson, who was backed by Scottish Police Federation insurers, with no choice but to drop the case, with no prospect of affording to raise fresh proceedings.

Mrs Henderson has submitted a formal complaint about her treatment to Health Secretary Shona Robison. She is also considering raising her case with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Dr Alison Graham, medical director of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said she was unable to discuss individual cases.