Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 28 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council gave personal information about him to a hospital and other public bodies which was not accurate. Mr X should complain to the Information Commissioner. He can then return to the Ombudsman.
- Mr X complains the Council acted wrongly by giving a local hospital inaccurate information about him. The Council told the hospital that Mr X was on a restraining order obtained by the mother of his children but he says that is not true. Mr X believes the Council also gave inaccurate sensitive personal information to Hertfordshire County Council and to a mediation service. Mr X feels badly treated and says the Council caused him considerable anxiety and time and trouble. He says he has lost trust in authority.
- Mr X complains the Council has refused to supply him with requested information. It has refused to investigate his complaint about giving other agencies inaccurate personal information and the need to amend its records. Mr X says the Council should correct inaccurate information and ensure that no one else suffers as he has.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Mr X’s information, comments, and discussed the complaint with him by telephone. I have considered the Council’s comments and information. The information includes the complaint correspondence and the record of the contact between the Council’s safeguarding team and the hospital.
What I found
- Mr X says in 2016 he was arrested by the police after an altercation with the mother of his children. He says about six weeks later the police closed the file and he was not prosecuted. Mr X says he attended mediation towards the end of the year but this ended before he expected.
- In June 2017, a hospital reported to the Council Mr X’s concerns about his children. On 2 June the Council contacted the hospital and: ‘reported that mother had a restraining order out against father due to previous DV [domestic violence]…Family are previously known…in 2011 due to previous DV in parents relationship’.
- Mr X says that he and his partner separated. He applied to court for contact with his children. In August 2017, the Council was asked to provide information to court. Mr X tells me that early in 2018 he and his former partner reached an agreement about his contact and he sees his children.
- On 31 January 2018 Mr X complained to the Council about the accuracy of information it had sent to court about his family. The Council information says it did not reply to the complaint.
- On 17 September 2018 Mr X complained to the Council about the handling of his personal information:
- That untruthful and partial information had been given in a report which the Council knew would be provided to court.
- That it had told the local hospital that his partner had a restraining order against him and that: ‘this information is completely false’.
- That the Council’s safeguarding team had given inaccurate information to Hertfordshire County Council’s social services including about an event in 2011. He says Hertfordshire officers are now challenging him about incidents that had not occurred.
- I will not investigate for the following reasons:
- Mr X’s complaint is about how the Council handled his personal data, whether it holds inaccurate information and whether it gave inaccurate information to other public bodies. In particular, he says that the Council was wrong to tell a hospital that his former partner had a restraining order against him when no such order had been made.
- The Information Commissioner is responsible for compliance with the data protection rules (see paragraph 3 above). That office has powers to require councils to handle information correctly and can issue a fine if there is a breach of the rules. I consider it reasonable for Mr X to pursue his complaint with the Information Commissioner.
- I have concerns about how the Council handled Mr X’s complaints which I will raise with the Council.
- Once Mr X has a decision from the Information Commissioner he can complain again to this office if he considers he has an injustice not remedied.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council gave personal information about him to a hospital and other bodies which was not accurate. Mr X should complain to the Information Commissioner. He can then return to the Ombudsman.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman