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Northumberland County Council (21 018 585)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 10 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council reached its view about where Mr X’s children should live. This is because a court will decide the issue of residence. The matter being complained of is not separable from the court proceedings.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains about how the Council used information when reaching a view on where Mr X’s children should live. He says this affected his children’s and the Council’s views on where the children should live.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. We have the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we think the issues could reasonably be, or have been, raised within a court of law. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

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

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My assessment

  1. Where Mr X’s children should live was subject to court proceedings. The court ordered a number of steps to be undertaken and the position then reviewed. When the Council reviewed the matter, it considered the children should live with their mother.
  2. Mr X is unhappy with this decision so did not agree to the Council’s suggestion. He believes the Council did not take proper account of relevant information and gave weight to irrelevant information in reaching its view. The Council therefore started court action for the court to decide where Mr X’s children should live.
  3. The central point giving rise to Mr X’s complaint is the question of where Mr X’s children should live. The court will decide that. The matters Mr X complains about are not separable from this central point that the court will decide. We cannot consider the Council’s decision to start court action or the conduct of the court proceedings. Also, Mr X can raise in court any concerns he has about the basis for the Council’s view about where his children should live.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because it is not separable from the matters which have been or will be decided in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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