Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 03 May 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the actions of the Council in relation to the complainant’s children, when he and his wife were arrested. This is because we cannot consider any matter that has been the subject of court proceedings or criminal investigation.
- The complainant, who I refer to as Mr X, complains about the Council’s actions when it took his children into care following the arrest of Mr and Mrs X.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
We cannot investigate a complaint where the body complained about is not responsible for the issue being raised. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(1), as amended)
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr X and by the Council. I have also sent Mr X an initial view for his comments.
What I found
- Mr and Mrs X were arrested on child protection grounds and their three children were taken into care.
- Mr X now has the children back in his care, but he has complained about the way in which the Council handled the events.
- The LGSCO is unable to consider the majority of his complaints. This is because we are unable, by law, to consider any matter that has been considered by a court. This would include both how the care proceedings were managed, and the decisions made.
- Additionally, we cannot consider any aspect of the police investigation, as the actions of the police in the course of a criminal investigation are also outside our jurisdiction.
- We will not look at the decision to initiate child protection procedures, as the Council had no other option in view of the allegations made against Mr and Mrs X.
- This leaves Mr X’s complaints with regard to information handling: he has complained about the lack of information provided to him and his wife, as well as to the children, about what was happening; the omission of important information passed on by social workers to the foster carers; and the accuracy of information given to the hospital where one of the children was taken.
- We will not investigate these issues. This is because some of them have been raised in court, and there is nothing further that we could achieve with regard to the other issues.
- I will not investigate the complaint as most of it is out of our jurisdiction due to court or criminal proceedings, and we cannot achieve a worthwhile outcome on the other issues.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman