North Somerset Council (19 018 825)

Category : Housing > Private housing

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s decision to bring a prosecution against him. This is because we cannot investigate a council’s decision to start court proceedings or its conduct of those proceedings.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, complained about the Council’s decision to bring a prosecution against him in the Magistrates’ Court. Mr B says this caused him stress, anxiety, loss of earnings and he has had to pay legal fees.

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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 have considered the information Mr B provided and given him an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B told us the Magistrates dismissed the charge against him in August 2018. He complained to us in February 2020 but he told us he had complained to us twice before, receiving an acknowledgment from us in November 2019.
  2. The Local Government Act 1974 includes a time limit of 12 months for people to bring their complaint to us. The twelve-month period runs from the day the person affected first became aware of the fault they are alleging. It does not run from the end of the Council’s complaint process. We do not have evidence Mr B brought his complaint to us by August 2019.
  3. We have discretion to investigate late complaints if there are good reasons to do so. But in this case Mr B is complaining about a matter which we cannot investigate. We cannot investigate a council’s decision to start court proceedings or its conduct of those proceedings.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate a council’s decision to start court proceedings or its conduct of those proceedings.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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