It was announced this week the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012 had passed the final stage in the Dáil. There is an interesting development as it extends the power of the Ombudsman’s Office to cover a number of further government departments. Included in those departments are the Court Service and the Legal Aid Board which means complaints or difficulties with the use of those services can be brought to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman is responsible for examining complaints from the public who believed they have been unfairly treated by government departments. This is an interesting development in relation to both the Legal Aid Board and the Court Services. For Legal Aid, there has been a right of appeal to the higher Courts if a legal aid certificate is turned down, but this is often beyond the means of anyone seeking legal aid. It will be interesting to see whether the Ombudsman will now become another option.
The Courts Service may also come under scrutiny in relation to provision of services. For quite some time now, and through no fault of the court staff themselves, there have been considerable delays both in relation to having a case heard and also in relation to getting back documentation from the Courts. Any complaints regarding the unfairness of this might now be brought before the Ombudsman’s Office.