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Norfolk County Council (21 016 989)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 10 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s historic complaint about sexual abuse she suffered in the early 1980’s when she was a child in the Council’s care. The complaint lies outside our jurisdiction because it is late and there are not good grounds to exercise discretion to investigate it now.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, complains she was sexually abused when she was a young teenager living in a childrens’ home in the early 1980s.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Ms X complained to the Council in 2021 about sexual abuse she suffered whilst under its care as a teenager in the early 1980s. She did so following court proceedings in 2019 where the perpetrator was found guilty of serious offences relating to Ms X.
  2. The Council declined to investigate Ms X’s complaint because it would not be able to conduct a fair and accurate investigation now given the substantive events happened in the 1980s and the lack of remaining records.
  3. Ms X is unhappy the Council’s response said the files may have been destroyed in line with data retention protocols at the time as it told the court the records were destroyed due to water or fire damage.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint. The complaint lies outside our jurisdiction because it is late, as per the restriction set out in paragraph 3, above. There are not good grounds to exercise discretion to consider this complaint now. This is because due to the significant passage of time and the lack of records there is no realistic prospect of us being able to carry out a meaningful investigation and reach a fair, reliable and sound view on the Council’s actions now, 40 years on. I note Ms X’s dissatisfaction with the Council’s comment about the files however this does not alter my view that we should not investigate this complaint now for the reasons set out above.
  2. We cannot consider any matters that have been considered and decided in court as the law prevents us from doing so.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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