Privacy settings

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Investigation Manual

26 Jurisdiction and decision making

Assessment will normally already have determined whether there is jurisdiction to investigate the complaint and will have made an initial assessment of fault and injustice. If an Assessment decision is considered to be wrong, this must be agreed by the Assistant Ombudsman. This is likely to be a rare occurrence and in most cases Investigators are expected to be able to either complete an investigation or explain why they believe it should be discontinued.

Investigators may come to their own fresh decision on jurisdiction in the light of new or clarified information. The latest Guidance on Jurisdiction will help with those decisions. The Assessment Code is a useful guide to fault and injustice. Please also see the Casework Guidance Statements and Remedies Guidance.

We use the plain English term ‘fault’ to describe our formal findings of maladministration and/or service failure. Fault is not a lesser failing than maladministration, simply a more accessible way of describing it for the public. Service failure and maladministration are distinct legal concepts in our legislation, but they are closely related and overlapping. The courts have made clear that we do not need to investigate them separately, and provided we present our findings clearly, we should not need to go into detailed explanations of the differences. 

Our decisions are made on the balance of probability (‘more likely than not’). Neither party has to prove what happened using the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Nor do we have to be ‘certain’ to reach a conclusion. We should not apply tests of wholly or utterly or Wednesbury unreasonableness and should not describe our final conclusion on the BinJ’s actions in terms of reasonableness, but in terms of fault (or otherwise).

Maladministration may also be a breach of the complainant’s human rights. It is for the courts to determine whether human rights have been breached, but the Ombudsman may conclude they have been engaged. There is general guidance explaining our approach to human rights in casework available on the intranet.

Detailed guidance on applying our powers under section 26D of the Local Government Act is set out in this casework guidance policy note.