Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 17 Jan 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained about the conduct of the Council’s Trading Standards officers when they searched his home for illegal tobacco. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of any fault which would warrant an investigation.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains about the actions of Trading Standards officers when the block of flats he lives in was searched for illegal tobacco in 2018. He says the officers acted in an intimidating and aggressive manner and tried to break into his flat until he allowed them entry under duress.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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 or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information which Mr X submitted with his complaint. I have also considered the Council’s response.
What I found
- Mr X lives in a flat and in 2018 the block was raided by Police and Trading Standards officers seeking illegal tobacco. The team found illegal tobacco in the other flats which it searched but Mr X refused to allow access into his own flat. He told officers that he had no tobacco and would not allow the search dog to enter.
- Mr X says a Council officer intimidated him and said the flat could be entered by force. He also says the officer attempted to break in the door with his shoulder. Mr X allowed the officers to enter because he was concerned damage would be caused but he says he was forced into this by the officer’s behaviour. He says his landlord was present and supported the search team and not his tenant.
- The Council says the team of five officers, two police officers and Mr X’s landlord do not agree with his description of the events. The officer says he told Mr X that the flat could be entered by force with a warrant if he did not cooperate and that he did not try to force the door. The flat was searched and no damage was caused.
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. We cannot say what took place in 2018 and the witnesses who were interviewed afterwards did not agree with Mr X’s claims. Clearly Mr X was upset by the events but there is no evidence that any significant injustice was caused or that what he was told was incorrect.
- The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of any fault which would warrant an investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman