The good name earned by Scandinavian Ombudsmen is now compromised and the brand tarnished. Lawyers, journalists, broadcasters, students of politics, fellow bloggers – If what follows doesn’t worry you, it is YOUR loss as well as mine Here they were shooting on sight! Here is the killing zone!

 On 23 December, just before Christmas, Kristianne James – the investigator – sends me an email saying that as I challenge her decision she is referring it to the Ombudsman. I tell her that I have more to say,  and that I intend to write to Kathryn Stone direct. I also said that I intended to write to the office of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice.

 On 28 December, immediately after Christmas, I sent those letters with copies to Kristianne James.

 On 30 December a great shock to my system. I received an email from Kristianne James despatched on the 29 December with a letter attached stating the following:

 “It would be more suitable for the issue to be dealt with by a court, by arbitration or by another complaints (or costs-assessment) scheme (Rule 5.7(g))

  My final decision on this issue is that the complaint should be dismissed under Rule 5.7(g).

In light of my decision this case will now be closed. We will not normally consider reopening a case unless the circumstances are exceptional.”

My first great surprise was the name of Samantha Argyle “Ombudsman” at the foot of the letter. I expected Kathryn Stone’s, the Legal Ombudsman. The letter said that she had read my letter to Kathryn Stone. As you will see she had paid scant attention to it.

All became clearer when I realised that, along with Samantha Argyle, Mariette Hughes, Paul Lawton, Steven Pearson, Andrew Burford, Laura Barker, Jason Chapman, Amanda Charlton, Darren Cox, Clair Daniel, Siobhan Fennell, Jodie Handley, Louise Hopkins, Shamaila Hussain, Joshua Jackson, Louise Smith, and Simon Williams were all designated Ombudsmen. What a commentary on the legal profession by the way to need so many!

It was in this context that Kathryn Stone was designated Chief Ombudsman.

 Are these seventeen properly named Ombudsmen? Or is this a bureaucratic misnomer? Aren’t they just apparatchiks? If you look at their profiles ask yourselves whether they should be empowered individually to have the last word without any appeal to the Chief Ombudsman. And you might well ask what the Chief Ombudsman is there for if not for that purpose.

Exactly same can be said about Dr. Jane Martin the Local Government Ombudsman. I am jumping ahead of myself.

 The second thing that shook me was the sudden speed of everything , the positively indecent haste, and over the Christmas holiday period too! This was the second time. Before December 20 prevarication had been the norm.

On 3 September I had submitted the complaint. On 20 December, after 15 weeks’ delay, 20 email reminders, 3 telephone calls and an unanswered letter, Kristianne James emailed me to say that she was the Investigator and under Rule 5.7(g) she dismissed my complaint. She didn’t even stop to ask me to identify the bad service their remit requires them to address. And by 30 December, it was all over.

 Not much turkey for Kristianne and Sam this Christmas, only a very hot, totally indigestible potato. For me a truly Kafkaesque situation.

This is what I had put in my letter to Kathrny Stone about Kristianne’s decision.

“Instead she immediately jumped to the entirely wrong conclusion. She summed this up in an email when she wrote:Simply, as a lay organisation, we are not in a position to analyse and determine if the firm’s advice was right or not.” That was not what she had to do.”

 “What she should have recognised was that at this stage her task was actually a very simple one, one that a fifteen year old child could undertake. She simply had to go back to Bindmans and ask them to do what Stuart Knight (on behalf of the Legal Ombudsman) had told them that they should do, namely to answer one by one my criticisms of their Advice. Only if and when they did so would the question arise as to whether she had sufficient expertise to evaluate the response. Only then, if it was not, could she invoke section 5.7g of your Scheme Rules and dismiss my complaint.”

Wasn’t speed here to ensure that the case that could not be re-opened? No worry then for the office of the Prime Minister or the Minister of Justice or for Kathryn Stone. And no worry for quite a few other people as well.

 I shall explore this further as the story unfolds. In my next post I shall help you to understand why I take this so seriously and what it is all about.



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