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Ombudsman expenses crisis a wake-up call, says MoJ chief

Pre 2003 the Legal Services Ombudsman was Ann Abraham who commented about Thomas Boyd Whyte "...their work was so bad..." and commented that Mr Higgins QC opinion report on TBW was "inaccurate". My complaint would reached her as Parliamentary Ombudsman but she said the Legal Services do not fall within her remit…I believe this was a 'PORKIE'…

In the past the Law Society never ever got the 'Complaints Procedure' right so in March 2003 along came Zahida Manzoor with lots of 'Trumpet blowing' titled "Legal Services Ombudsman" I think she would now be better known and remembered as the 'Law Society's Chief Protectorate' (office of protector of kingdom or state).
(You only have to read a letter I wrote to this 'Bent Nine Bob Note' two years after she came to office to see she not only was Referee but was also playing in the Law Society team colours).

More 'Trumpet blowing' came 'Sampson' going to put everything right but he and his staff caught with their hands in the 'Till' not to say he lied to what his remit intailed.
(You only have to read a letter I wrote to to Adam 'the Ant' Sampson in April 2012 it shows the new LeO 'Referee' is also playing in the Law Society 'Team Colours' (No change there then!)) Adam 'the Ant' resigns

Now Nick Hawkins, Chief Executive, is 'Trumpet blowing' for our new LeO, Kathryn Stone…. But as we know from years of experience some years down the line it will all go 'Pear-shaped' again, along will come another new LeO with more 'Trumpet blowing' and all the past sins again swept under the carpet, leaving complainants looking for other ways to vent their anger.
(Will things change with this one? I don't think so, read my ,,,Preface 3rd paragraph "In 1215 King John refuse to honour the Magna Carta which triggered the 'Barons War'". Once again it will be just a case of history repeating it's self no doubt…the reason, click HERE).

2 July 2016 | By John Hyde

The Ministry of Justice has tightened its grip on arm's-length bodies in the wake of the Legal Ombudsman's expenses issue. Richard Heaton (pictured), permanent secretary at the MoJ, told the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons on Monday that the organisation has 'strengthened its defences' against a repeat of the crisis.

Accounts for the 2014/15 year, published in January, found 'novel and contentious' payments had been made to ombudsman staff and were not approved by the MoJ.

The previous year's accounts had been qualified on the basis of what the National Audit Office called 'irregular expenditure' totalling £22,300.

Heaton said the complaints-handler had been treated as 'low risk' and subject to quarterly checks on expenditure.

It is unclear whether the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), which runs the ombudsman service, is now classified as higher risk, but Heaton said lessons have been learnt from the matter.

The OLC was not a high-risk organisation compared with CAFCASS or the Parole Board,' he said. There was a governance failure in the OLC, which meant that expenditure took place that was irregular in Treasury terms and, frankly, should have been picked up.'

Heaton accepted that the problems were picked up due to the actions of a whistleblower and not by internal checks of the arm's-length body. He admitted it was 'arguable' that the issue could have been raised sooner had it been administered within the civil service.

The OLC was part of an essentially regulatory regime that was levy-funded by the legal profession, and none of it was within government,' he said.

It was monitored by government, because it is public money, it was a compulsory levy and it serves a public function, but it was never a government function in the first place.'

Asked by committee member Stephen Phillips if the same mistakes would have happened if the OLC had been run by the civil service, Heaton replied: 'Not unless someone was ignorant of their responsibilities. Every civil servant has line-management responsibility, which includes knowing how government money works.'

In January, the OLC reported it was on the way to bringing expenses issues to a resolution, although the report's governance statement said the office was required to continue these payments under 'contractual commitments to its employees'.

Readers' comments (13)

" Anonymous 22 July 2016 02:41 pm
This would never have happened if it had been a lawyer at the helm. I say that with some considerable insight as an executive within the SRA. Much can and will be learned from this.

" Anonymous 22 July 2016 02:58 pm
Because the SRA always adhere to their governance and process procedures ..........lol

Its not only the OLC that has the "exceptional circumstances" argument as a fall back defence to mis management and poor staff handling of matters........lol.

Sounds like the kettle calling the pot black.

" Anonymous 22 July 2016 04:11 pm
'He who should not be mentioned'...
Expelliramus ( or some such nonsense )

" Gavin Wall 22 July 2016 04:13 pm
I've always enjoyed the word Ombudsman. I like the fact it means " a trusted intermediary". Trust. so

Anonymous 22 July 2016 04:36 pm
I think Anon of 04.11 means:

"Avra Cadavra!"

If only this was real!

"Anonymous 22 July 2016 08:19 pm
Thanks Anon! Right spell for the right job....
That's what happens when a muggle tries to do a wizard's job....
Speaking of which how are the SRA and Countrywide Conveyancing getting on these days?

"Anonymous 22 July 2016 11:21 pm
Satire is not dead, long live freedom of speech and the pure joy of laughing at anybody who takes themselves too seriously.

"David Crawford 25 July 2016 01:58 pm
I wish you would stop gagging me and taking down my posts regarding Sampson! Is it 'you scratch my back...' down there, or what? This man had expenses he should not have had and he knows it. Why then is he not reported to the police for them to investigate?

"Skarthatch Yoggoth 25 July 2016 06:49 pm
No David it's that typically the gazette runs scared if anything gets too hot. It's a symptom of the 21 century that freedom of speech and debate ARE censored on the basis of concern over a reaction that has not happened yet! Is this a 'safe space'? I hope not !

"David Crawford 25 July 2016 08:04 pm
Thanks for that reassurance, Skarthatch, I was beginning to wonder if it was just me. That was the fourth post I made on the topic and the least 'controversial' omitting all references, direct or indirect, to the Theft Act. Here's hoping!

"Bobby Godchops 26 July 2016 12:17 pm

The Theft Act…now there is a good idea!!! Can anyone call the cops!!
'get in the back of the van' as the Copper said in Withnail and I.
Also and aside if we did what AS possibly did allegedly did etc etc we would I suspect get a damn good 'beating' from a big stick.

"David Crawford 26 July 2016 09:23 pm

Yes, indeed Bobby, and that big stick would be wielded by...The Legal Services Ombudsman!

David Crawford 1 August 2016 12:27 pm

A wake-up call, a WAKE-UP CALL!!! A crime in my book, no several crimes.

…I received a new statement from the OLC saying that Mr Sampson had in fact been dismissed with notice...
Posted by Neil Rose, Editor, Legal Futures. 9 November 2015