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Cleveland Fire Brigade (17 018 511)

Category : Other Categories > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about a comment made by a member of the fire service or the Authority’s investigation into his subsequent complaint. This is because the personal injustice he says arises from the alleged fault relates to slander and reputational damage and he may seek a remedy in the courts. Mr B's complaint does not demonstrate any other significant injustice that the Ombudsman might seek to remedy.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complains that the Fire Service failed to carry out an independent investigation into his complaint about a comment made by an employee of the Fire Service whilst the employee was on duty. Mr B says the Fire Service failed to adhere to the proper levels of complaint handling and investigation. As a result, Mr B says he has suffered reputational damage and he has no way to redress this injustice.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), 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 the information provided by Mr B. This included a copy of the Fire Services final response to Mr B’s complaints.
  2. Mr B has had the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. In October 2017, a conversation took place between Mr B and an employee, X, at the Fire Service whilst X was on duty.
  2. Mr B considered X made defamatory and offensive comments about him and complained.
  3. The Fire Service carried out an investigation and advised Mr B there was no evidence to substantiate his allegations.
  4. Mr B remained dissatisfied and complained at Stages 2 and 3 of the Fire Services procedures.
  5. In its final response to Mr B, the Fire Service said the disciplinary investigation had been carried out satisfactorily and Mr B’s allegations were fully considered. The Fire Service said on the balance of probabilities, there had been some rumourmongering within the Service in connection to Mr B but there was no evidence this had been defamatory or derogatory. In addition, these comments could not be attributable to X.

Analysis

  1. Mr B is unhappy about the alleged behaviour of X. He says the personal injustice arising from the alleged incident concerns damage to his reputation and slander. If Mr B feels this has occurred, these are matters for the courts to decide. We cannot rule on such matters.
  2. The Ombudsman provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.
  3. Mr B’s complaint does not demonstrate any significant, separate injustice to the reputational damage he says he has experienced. Therefore, we will not investigate Mr B’s complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. Mr B can seek a remedy in the courts for the injustice he says he has experienced. And any outstanding injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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