The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no evidence of fault in the way the Council dealt with a customer at its Customer Service Centre.
- The complainant, who I shall refer to as Miss X, alleges a Security Guard accused her of ‘jumping the queue’ when she visited a Customer Service Centre. She said it was her first time at the Centre and she thought she had to collect a ticket from the ticket machine. She says the Security Guard did not listen to her and instead escorted her to the queue which she found humiliating. She says she asked for his name. When he refused she says she told him she might take a photo of him. She says he shouted at her and said he would call the Police. She says he chased after her and called other security guards to follow her. She says the Council took a long time to respond to her complaint.
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. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I viewed CCTV taken from three cameras in the Customer Service Centre. I considered what Miss X says happened and the witness statements of the two security guards involved.
- Miss X and the Council had the opportunity to comment on a draft version of my decision. I considered what they said before I made a final decision.
What I found
- The Council’s corporate complaints policy says it will acknowledge the receipt of a complaint within two working days and respond within ten working days.
- The Council has provided a photograph of a notice at the Customer Service Centre that says no photography or video recording.
- The Security Guards’ version of the incident differ from what Miss X says. Security Guard 1 says Miss X went over the barrier to take a ticket. He says he asked her not to queue jump. He says Miss X shouted at him and took his photograph. He says he showed her the notice banning this. He says he asked his colleague to keep an eye on Miss X while he spoke to two police officers who were in the Centre. He says the police officers spoke to Miss X and asked her to delete the photograph. He says she refused and left the building.
- Security Guard 2 says he saw what happened. He says Miss X took a photograph of Security Guard 1. He says they both asked Miss X to delete this. He says two police officers were there and saw what happened and asked Miss X to delete the photograph.
- Ms X says the Security Guard 1 did not show her the notice and she did not take a photograph of him. She says Security Guard 1 threatened to call the police but she saw the officers in the centre. She says she approached the police to prove she had not taken a photograph.
- The CCTV does not have sound so it is not possible to verify if Miss X asked for the Security Guard’s name. However, he was wearing an identity card. It is also not possible to say if either Miss X or a Security Guard shouted. I could see that others using the Centre do not stop to look.
- From the CCTV I cannot tell if Miss X took a photograph. I also cannot verify if Security Guard 1 showed Ms X the notice. The CCTV does show a Security Guard walking after Miss X.
- There is also CCTV footage of the Security Guards and Miss X talking to two police officers. The Council says nobody took the names of the police officers so it was not possible to get a witness statement from them.
- Ms X has the electronic confirmation she made a formal complaint to the Council on 7 September 2018. She says it told her it would respond by 9 October 2018.
- The Council’s Complaints Officer took statements from the Security Guards and viewed the CCTV. He wrote to Miss X on 19 October and apologised for the delay. He said he could not uphold Miss X’s complaint on the available information.
- I have two different versions on the incident, so must rely on what independent evidence there is. The CCTV provides independent evidence; however it has no soundtrack and does not catch the whole incident. With no soundtrack, I cannot know if Miss X asked for the Security Guard’s name. Miss X and Security Guard 1 accuse each other of shouting. From the CCTV It is not possible to say who, if either, is correct. However, if there had been a loud argument between the two I would expect to see some reaction from other people in the Centre.
- Miss X says she only said she would take a photograph. Security Guard 1 says she did. The CCTV provides no evidence of either version. If Security Guard 1 thought Miss X had taken a photograph, and she accepts she threatened to do this, he was within his rights to ask her to delete it.
- The CCTV provides evidence that a security guard did not chase Miss X; he walked after her. It also shows the police were already in the Centre during the incident. I cannot know who first approached the police or what anyone said.
- Due to a lack of independent evidence to support Miss X’s claim that Security Guard 1 shouted at her, humiliated her, and refused to give his name I cannot uphold this complaint.
- The Council carried out a proper investigation of Miss X’s complaint. However, it did not meet its published timescale for responding. The Council has apologised to Miss X for this. I consider this the right remedy for the delay.
- I have seen no evidence of fault by the Council in either the incident itself or the way it investigated Miss X’s complaint. I have completed my investigation and closed the complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman