Darlington Borough Council (19 000 080)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 May 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint that the Council made false allegations about the complainant and made a false report to the police. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, says the Council made false allegations about him and made a false report to the police. Mr X wants a public apology and compensation.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I considered the Council’s application for an injunction and the injunction issued by the court. I also considered a statement made by a Council officer and comments Mr X made in response to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X visited the Council in January to collect a letter. The Council says that, during the visit, Mr X was aggressive and abusive. For example, the Council says Mr X threw a letter at someone, shouted at officers, was aggressive in his manner and made staff feel intimidated. The Council called the police, partly because Mr X said he would not leave. The police mistakenly thought Mr X had been aggressive to officer A but officer A had merely been asked to call the police due to Mr X’s behaviour towards other officers. The police removed Mr X but did not arrest or charge him. The Council says there have been other occasions when the police have removed Mr X.
  2. The Council says that a couple of days later Mr X rang the Council. The Council says Mr X was verbally abusive during the call and made threats to officers.
  3. The Council has placed Mr X on the register of people who may present a risk to staff. The Council also said that Mr X could only contact the Council by email. The Council wrote to Mr X in February to say that he was continuing to make abusive phone calls.
  4. The Council applied to the court for an injunction. The evidence presented to the court included examples of inappropriate behaviour by Mr X in 2018 and in 2019 after the January incident. The evidence submitted to the court includes examples of Mr X being verbally abusive, making threats and contacting the Council an excessive number of times.
  5. In March the court issued an injunction. The injunction forbids Mr X from threatening Council staff or doing anything that causes harassment, alarm or distress to Council staff.
  6. Mr X denies behaving inappropriately in January and says the Council made a false report to the police and to other Council employees. He says the Council has a history of wrongly accusing him of inappropriate behaviour and then having to apologise. He wants compensation and a public apology.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. Mr X denies any inappropriate behaviour. However, the Council has a duty to protect staff and, given that staff reported aggressive or abusive behaviour by Mr X, then I cannot criticise the Council for taking steps to protect staff. In addition, the court accepted that Mr X has behaved inappropriately and, while the court did not consider the January incident, the body of evidence suggests, on the balance of probabilities, that there was no fault in the Council’s decision to call the police. Mr X can still contact the Council but has been asked to do so by email and to abide by the terms of the injunction.
  2. There was a previous occasion when the Council upheld a complaint from Mr X that he had wrongly been accused of behaving inappropriately. However, that incident has nothing to do with the events in January.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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