Investigators may need to ask for advice to further an investigation. In the first instance, Investigators should look for readily available advice on the intranet and from colleagues. Advice is also available when needed from Assistant Ombudsmen, and in regular supervision sessions.
Sometimes, however, it will be necessary for an Investigator to seek more formal advice. This may be to get legal or specialist advice, or guidance from our Joint Working Team or senior staff. Investigators should always keep the complainant informed about what is happening with their complaint and, if advice is sought, the target timescale for a response. Do not give the contact details for our legal advisers, the Director of Investigation, Director of Intake & Assessment, Chief Executive or Ombudsman to members of the public. The Chief Executive is not normally involved in casework.
In the case where formal advice is sought from an Assistant Ombudsman, the Director of Investigation or the Ombudsman, the Investigator should clearly set out the issues in ECHO in Notes & Analysis. Requests to the Ombudsman should be made through an Assistant Ombudsman.
The Assistant Ombudsman will seek the prompt input of the Director of Investigation and/or Ombudsman direct on all cases:
- where there is no established precedent
- where the proposed remedy is contentious or involves a particularly high financial component, or
- where our case handling has potentially put our reputation at risk.
See also Public Interest Reports and Adverse Findings Notices for cases which might merit closure in these ways.
The target response time is normally 10 working days, though this is reduced for parts of the reports process. (See the Reports and Adverse Findings Notice Manual. If necessary, responses should be chased direct (for Assistant Ombudsmen) or through the Executive Assistant.
Please see the Legal Manual.
Before requesting legal advice Investigators should carry out their own research. Guidance on how to access and conduct searches using Lexis Nexis is here.
We should not disclose any legal advice we receive, and we should not provide third parties with names or contact information for our legal advisors. Any legal advice should be moved to the do not disclose folder in ECHO.
Legal advice cannot replace the Ombudsman’s judgement but can be taken into account.
If an Investigator believes external advice (such as clinical advice, specialist comments on loss of light, or similar) is necessary, they must discuss matters with their Assistant Ombudsman. Investigators may not enter into arrangements which have cost implications for the LGSCO. Investigators should confirm timescales with any person or body which agrees to provide advice, and keep the complainant informed. Expert advice cannot replace the Ombudsman’s judgement but can be taken into account.
We should not provide third parties with personal information or contact details of any provider of specialist external advice, but we can share evidence, findings and comments in the usual way, ensuring that the details of the advice provider have been redacted.