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North Devon District Council (21 002 141)

Category : Environment and regulation > Licensing

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 12 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The complainant says the Council lied to the court to get a warrant and failed to consider his complaint properly. We cannot investigate what happened in court. And Mr X’s concerns about the complaint investigation are late.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will call Mr X, says the Council:
    • refused to grant him a licence for a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
    • gave false evidence to the Magistrates Court to obtain a warrant
    • failed to investigate his complaint; and
    • lied in its response

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Mr X in his complaint form and the Council’s responses to his complaints.
  2. I also discussed his concerns with Mr X and considered his comments on the draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X complains that Council officers lied to the Magistrates Court to get a warrant to search his property.
  2. The Council confirms the Council applied to the Magistrates Court for a warrant of entry in 2018. It says this followed an investigation after it had received information about the number of people living on the site.
  3. The Council’s final response to Mr X’s complaint was made in 2019. This advises Mr X of his right to ask the Ombudsman to consider his complaint.

Assessment

  1. We cannot consider anything complaints about what happened in court. Therefore, we cannot look at Mr X’s allegation that the Council lied to the court, any concerns around the application for, and granting of the warrant.
  2. Also, the law says a complaint must be made to us within 12 months of the complainant becoming aware of the matter.
  3. Mr X is not satisfied with the Council’s investigation of his complaint and its response. However, the final response to Mr X’s complaint which advised him of his right to ask us to consider the matter was given to him in 2019. Therefore, this complaint is late. Most of Mr X’s concerns are outside of our jurisdiction because they concern what happened in court. Therefore, I have seen no reason to disapply the restriction described at paragraph 3 above to the rest of the complaint.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint because:
    • We cannot investigate concerns about what happened in court; and
    • Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s consideration of his complaint is late as he was aware of this matter for than 18 months before coming to the Ombudsman. For the reasons given in paragraph 11 I will not investigate.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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