Hampshire County Council (14 019 630)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2015

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s failure to disclose documents to him. She cannot consider what happened in court and cannot achieve anything significant for Mr B by investigating.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr B, complains that the Council’s solicitor failed to disclose documents to him in the course of court proceedings.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if she believes she cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Ombudsman 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have spoken to Mr B and considered the Council’s response to his complaint. I have also considered his response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B’s son was the subject of adoption proceedings. In the course of the legal action, the judge ordered another authority to produce documents. Mr B complains that the Council’s solicitor submitted the documents to the court but did not disclose them to him. The Council has accepted that it was at fault in failing to disclose the documents and has apologised to Mr B.
  2. When it became clear that Mr B had not seen the documents, the judge permitted him to consider them overnight. Mr B is aggrieved that the judge did not allow him to re-examine witnesses when he had considered the documents. He therefore believes that the Council’s actions disadvantaged him in the legal proceedings.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint as she cannot achieve anything significant by doing so. It was for the court to decide how to respond to the failure to disclose the documents, and the judge did so. Mr B disagrees with the judge’s actions and the court’s decision. But the law prevents the Ombudsman from considering these matters. If Mr B wants to pursue them, he must do so through the courts. Investigation by the Ombudsman would not lead to a different outcome.
  4. Mr B further complains that the Council has not agreed to his request for a meeting with the Director of Children’s Services. It is for the Council to decide how to respond to Mr B’s complaint and it is entitled to decline his request. The Ombudsman will not criticise it for doing so.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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