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Stoke-on-Trent City Council (17 020 334)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Apr 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr and Mrs G’s complaint about evidence given to a Court and the events which led up to children leaving their care. The law prevents the Ombudsman from investigating legal proceedings.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Mrs G, say the Council failed to discuss allegations made against them before removing children from their care. They say Council officers fabricated evidence and misled a Court. They also complain about the way the Council investigated their complaint.

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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. We have the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we think the issues could reasonably be, or have been, raised within a court of law. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr and Mrs G provided with their complaint and the Council’s replies which it provided. Mr and Mrs G commented on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs G looked after their grandchildren. The Council say in January 2018 Mr and Mrs G contacted the Council to say they were struggling. Mr and Mrs G say they contacted the Council as it had removed support. Officers went to their home the next day. The Council say the children alleged physical chastisement. The Council say it has medical evidence to support this. Mr and Mrs G deny this. It removed the children from Mr and Mrs G’s care and began Court Care Proceedings. Those court proceedings are continuing.
  2. Mr and Mrs G say the Council failed to properly tell them about the allegations before removing the children. They say officers told the court inaccurate information.
  3. The Council say an officer explained the allegations to Mrs G before the children’s removal. Mr and Mrs G says the officer did not give them any detail.
  4. Mr and Mrs G are also unhappy at the choice of officer to reply to their complaint and the way the Council replied to their complaint.

Analysis

  1. We cannot investigate Council evidence given to a Court.
  2. The Court is currently considering the children’s care. This will include why they left Mr and Mrs G’s care. It is reasonable to expect Mr and Mrs G to tell the Court their concerns about the validity of the Council’s evidence and the events which led to the children’s removal from their care.
  3. When we cannot look at the complaint made to the Council we also cannot look at how the Council replied to that complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because it involves Court evidence and the Court is considering the complaint issues.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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