Monday, February 11, 2008

Human Rights

The British and Irish Ombudsman's Association held a biennial conference at the University of Warwick on 27 April 2007. Ms Emily O'Reilly, Ombudsman for Ireland at the Biennial Conference, gave a presentation called "Human Rights and the Ombudsman" . during this presentation she stated:

....Returning to the theme of being proactive and to put it in more practical terms, I am arguing for the human rights-proofing of the usual risk assessment procedures employed by public bodies within my remit. I admit that this may not be as simple as it sounds – given the conflicting imperatives that drive all risk assessment procedures – but, at the very least, a public body cannot hope to defend itself against a claim, formulated in terms of a human rights violation, if that body has not even considered human rights implications in the course of risk assessment. [My emphasis]

This is good news for those complainants who can formulate their complaint to include a human rights violation. If the council has not considered the human rights implications when they acted in a way which you allege is maladministration leading to injustice, then their failure to do so is in itself an act of maladministration.

Read word doc associated with the report.

34. It is for the courts to consider whether there has been a breach of the Human Rights Act and if so to make binding declarations and decisions. I have considered whether Human Rights Act issues were engaged in this case and whether they were properly taken into account. I have concluded that Article 8 was engaged and that the Council neglected to give this issue proper and timely consideration. This failure was so significant as to amount to maladministration and contributed to the injustice suffered. [My emphasis]

In addition the Irish Ombudsman goes on to say,

We need to recognise that Governments are far more sensitive to findings of human rights abuses than they are to findings of maladministration. [My emphasis]

That's is clearly the motivation for the Local Government Ombudsman changing tack recently. They, and their friends in local government, prefer to keep the problem in house and categorised as simple maladministration rather than letting a court later determine it as a human rights violation. That would
significantly embarrass the Local Government Ombudsman in question and be very costly for the Local Authority concerned.

All we need is a case in which the Local Government Ombudsman has made a finding of no maladministration but later a court finds Human Rights violations and awards substantial damages.

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