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London Borough of Wandsworth (17 017 080)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A’s complaint about the care of and contact with her daughter. It concerns matters which have been, or may be, decided in court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs A, complains that the Council has been at fault in taking her daughter from her care, in failing to ensure her daughter’s welfare and in preventing her from having contact with her daughter.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  3. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mrs A has said in support of her complaint and relevant correspondence provided by the Council. I gave Mrs A chance to comment on a draft and considered her comments before reaching a final decision on her complaint.

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What I found

  1. The court placed Mrs A’s daughter with her father under an Interim Care Order. Mrs A complains that her daughter was removed without her consent. She alleges that the Council made false allegations to ensure that the Order was not discharged and her daughter did not return to her care.
  2. Mrs A also complains that the Council has failed to take account of her daughter’s welfare and has failed to facilitate the contact with her daughter the court granted. She complains about the evidence the Council’s officers gave in court.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A’s complaint because it concerns matters which have been decided in court. Who has care of a child and arrangements for contact with the child are decisions for the court, not the Council. The law prevents the Ombudsman from investigating what happened in court. This includes the court’s decisions and any evidence given to the court by the Council.
  4. If Mrs A believes that the current arrangements for her daughter’s care should be changed, it is open to her to ask the court to change them. If the believes the Council is at fault in failing to implement the court’s wishes on contact, her recourse is to go back to court.
  5. Mrs A also complains about the actions of HM Courts & Tribunals Service. This body does not fall within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction and the Ombudsman cannot consider a complaint about it.
  6. In her response to a draft of this decision Mrs A commented at length on the actions of council staff going back to at least 2014 but those matters were not part of her original complaint to the Ombudsman. Even if they had been, however, the Ombudsman would not investigate them because there is no good reason to disapply the law and investigate historical matters which Mrs A could have complained about at the time. And the events of 2014-15 have since been overtaken by court proceedings which would prevent the Ombudsman achieving anything for Mrs A.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint because it concerns matters which have been, or may be, decided in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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