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 disclosure of information. The information was disclosed in the course of a court case than the Ombudsman cannot consider what happens in court.
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr B, complains that the Council was at fault in disclosing confidential information about a third party to him.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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:
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify the cost of her involvement, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- 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.
What I found
- Mr B’s son was subject to adoption proceedings brought by another authority. In the course of the legal action, the judge ordered the Council to disclose documents. Mr B complains that, in addition to the required documents, the Council disclosed documents relating to another family.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint. The documents were disclosed in the course of legal proceedings and the law prevents the Ombudsman from considering what happens in court.
- Any injustice caused by the alleged breach of confidentiality would be caused to the parties the information relates to, not to Mr B. The matter has been reported to the Office of the Information Commissioner, which is the appropriate body to consider it.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman