Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 16 Jan 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the Councils actions in response to allegations that the complainant physically abused his children. This is because the matters complained of have been considered in court, or were known to the complainant more than 12 months ago, and are therefore out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr Q, says that the Council:
- Did not investigate fairly the allegations of physical abuse made against him;
- Refused to accept his counter allegation that his ex-partner was trying to alienate the children from him;
- Did not conduct a fair child protection conference and unjustly put his children on the child protection register;
- Completed an inaccurate Section 47 report;
- Did not engage in a proper manner with court proceedings; and
- Has not responded properly to his Freedom of Information requests.
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 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)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- The Information Commissioner's Office considers complaints about freedom of information. Its decision notices may be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). So where we receive complaints about freedom of information, we normally consider it reasonable to expect the person to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr Q, and I sent him a draft decision for his comments.
What I found
- Mr Q’s sons made allegations that he had hurt them. The Council investigated the allegations. Mr Q says that he told the Council the boys had been coached by his ex-partner to make the allegations, because she wanted to alienate them from him.
- The Council convened a Child Protection Conference, at which it was decided that the children should go on the Child Protection Register. Mr Q appealed the decision, but it was upheld.
- Mr Q has complained to us about the appeal, as he says it did not consider the procedural points that he made regarding the Conference, and did not consider properly his complaint about the category decided on. I consider that the outcome of the Conference played a part in the outcome of the later court proceedings, and would be out of our jurisdiction.
- Any procedural matters would also be out of jurisdiction because the appeal dates from April 2018 and the complaint is therefore made late. I have considered whether to exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to consider this element now, but there are no good reasons to do so as the substantive matter is out of jurisdiction.
- Mr Q says that the Council further produced a Section 47 report, which was inaccurate, and biased against him. He says the report was used in court, and that the council officers involved did not engage properly with the court proceedings. The result that he was first denied contact with his sons, then only allowed to see them under supervision.
- Mr Q now has shared care of his children, and feels that this shows that the Council’s actions and decisions were wrong.
- I cannot, however, consider his complaint about the matter. This is because all of the decisions about contact and care were made by the courts, and it is for the court to consider the factors raised here by Mr Q, in making the decisions. This includes the use of child protection procedures, the accuracy of the S47 report and the credibility of council officers.
- The court also commented on Mr Q’s complaint about the Council’s communications with him.
- Finally, although Mr Q complains about issues relating to his FOI requests, such complaints are for the Information Commissioner’s Office to consider, as the body set up to look at such complaints.
- All the issues raised are therefore out of our jurisdiction.
- I cannot investigate this complaint. This is because all of the matters raised are out of jurisdiction.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman