|Wales could become the first UK nation to have an independent watchdog with the power to stop the publication of some of its reports and to prosecute those who go against its wishes could mean complainants could face contempt of court charges if they go to the media with complaints about, for example, hospital or council services.Reports following an investigation are always anonymous with names of complainants and those associated with the complaint always removed. Currently, the ombudsman can choose not to publish reports but he does not have the power to stop a complainant speaking to the media. It is surely the duty of the justice system, not the ombudsman, to decide whether confidentiality outweighs public interest, and should remain so.
The view of a complainant:
This man had his complaint upheld by the Ombudsman:
“I thought that the ombudsman was about empowering the common man or woman. He is there to allow someone to look outside of an organisation for redress.”
“The fact that an organisation has to explain itself publicly is one of the things that helps to get their attention when you complain.”
“Additionally, one of the things which made me go to the ombudsman was the knowledge that the things I had experienced were part of a bigger problem and I only knew that from information in the public domain.”
“These proposals will inhibit complaint and rob the ordinary person of the only real power they have.”
“How is the system going to get better unless enough other people can understand what has happened to me, share my outrage and demand that real change happens?”
“These are our services, our organisations and yet they are out of control.” Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22772551
A lawyer’s opinion? Matthew Nicklin QC, a barrister for 5RB Chambers, said he thought the dangers were “obvious”.
“The public expect an ombudsman’s service to operate with transparency,” he said.
“You can’t have a service which operates behind closed doors because none of us would know what’s going on.”
“I struggle to see how it can ever be right for the ombudsman to produce a report in private.”
There have long been concerns about the National Assembly/Welsh Government’s implementation of Freedom of Information requests. This represents a charter to further cover up incompetence and wrong-doing.
It needs resisting at all costs.
Public services ombudsman for Wales wants more privacy power – the thin end of a very worrying wedge!!
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