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Staffordshire County Council (17 013 327)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 29 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about photographs taken by a Council officer and used in court proceedings. This is because we cannot investigate complaints about information used in court proceedings.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council took photographs of family members, including his young daughter, without his permission. He says the Council used these photos as evidence in court cases involving his family.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A (6) and 34B (8), as amended)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Mr X, which included part of the Council’s response to his complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr X complained to the Council that it took photographs of family members, including his young daughter, without his permission. He says the Council then used these photos, which he says were obtained illegally, during court proceedings.
  2. The Council says a council officer took photographs in June 2016 during an animal health check. It says the photos were evidence that Mr X’s father was involved in keeping farm animals.

Assessment

  1. The photographs form part of the evidence provided by the Council to the court. The Ombudsman cannot investigate or comment on evidence given by Council officers in any court proceedings.
  2. If Mr X thinks his family’s privacy has been breached by the Council he can ask the Information Commissioner to consider his complaint. Where someone has a complaint about data protection matters the Ombudsman normally expects them to bring the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It has the power to take enforcement action against a data controller for a breach of one of the eight principles of information handling as set out in the Data Protection Act. The ICO is therefore better placed than the Ombudsman to deal with Mr X’s concerns.

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Final decision

  1. I cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate complaints about information used as evidence in court proceedings. Also, Mr X can ask the Information Commissioner to consider his complaint if he thinks his family’s data protection rights have been breached.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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