Qualifications of your legal assistant(s).

The request was partially successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Please provide the legal qualifications that your PHSO legal assistant(s) possesses. This is important because your legal assistant(s) deal with complex public law issues, such as judicial review in the High Court, and the public have a right to know that they can have confidence that PHSO staff have sufficient legal qualifications to enable them to make informed and fair judgements on very important legal matters.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear M Boyce

PHSO reference FDN-275034

Thank you for your request of 1st February 2018. Your request shall be handled under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. A response shall be issued on or before 1st March 2018.

Regards,

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
E: [email address]
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

show quoted sections

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear M Boyce

PHSO reference FDN-275034
Your request for information

Thank you for your request of 1st February 2018 in which you requested information from the PHSO. For reference, your request was for:

“Please provide the legal qualifications that your PHSO legal assistant(s) possesses. This is important because your legal assistant(s) deal with complex public law issues, such as judicial review in the High Court, and the public have a right to know that they can have confidence that PHSO staff have sufficient legal qualifications to enable them to make informed and fair judgements on very important legal matters.”

PHSO response

The PHSO holds the information relevant to your request. Please see attached the job specifications for the roles of Director of Legal Services, Legal Assistant, and Governance Officer.

The legal qualifications held by PHSO staff are exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The requested information is third party personal data, and processing that personal data would contravene the first data protection principle.

There is a general principle of fairness for public officials, meaning that individuals have a right to a private life. The Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995, which the Data Protection Act 1998 brought into effect, contains a reference to protecting privacy rights, as recognised in article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Were the requested information to be disclosed then it would represent an invasion on the privacy rights of the PHSO Legal team.

It is well established that information of this nature isn’t disclosed, and there are numerous decisions from the Information Commissioner’s Office to demonstrate this. For example, decision notice FS50645184 concerned a request for:

“Please provide a certified copy of [named individual’s] Solicitors Practising Certificate or a certified copy of his Barristers Practising Certificate,”

The Commissioner’s decision upheld the Council’s section 40(2) refusal of the request. In her decision, the Commissioner found that there is a legitimate interest in knowing public employees are qualified to carry out their roles, but that the disclosure of the job specification helped meet that legitimate interest.

Furthermore, decision notice FS50639366 concerned a request for a named doctor’s qualification from the General Medical Council. The Commissioner upheld the section 40(2) refusal of the request, concluding that whilst an individual may have concerns about a named individual there was no requirement to intrude on the individual’s privacy rights by disclosing the information.

Finally, the Commissioner upheld the refusal for the qualifications of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in decision notice FS50534565. Despite the seniority of the Ombudsman and the public importance attached to the role, it was accepted that the recruitment processes would be sufficient to ensure that the individual selected would be qualified for the role.

In your request you argued that there was a legitimate interest in the information being disclosed:

the public have a right to know that they can have confidence that PHSO staff have sufficient legal qualifications to enable them to make informed and fair judgements on very important legal matters.

The PHSO’s recruitment and interview processes assess the degree to which candidates meet or exceed the relevant person specification requirements, and the attached information show that legal qualifications and experience that are required. There is no wider pressing need for disclosure that would justify intruding into those individuals’ privacy rights in order to provide the exact details asked for in this request.

Right of appeal

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact the Freedom of Information Team. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request or wish to request an internal review, please respond to this email and explain why you are dissatisfied.

If you are not content with the outcome of your internal review, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally, the Commissioner will not make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the PHSO. The Information Commissioner’s Office can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

https://ico.org.uk/

Regards,

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
E: [email address]
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

3 Attachments

Dear M Boyce

Please accept my apologies, I forgot to attach the files. Please see attached.

Regards,

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
E: [email address]
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

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Dear InformationRights,

Thank you for providing some information.

I notice that the job specification for assistant legal adviser does NOT include writing responses to complainants' letters before claim as part of the Pre-Action Protocol for judicial review. I believe this should be done by legal advisers, and not their assistants. Mine was done by the assistant. The assistant did not follow the Pre-Action-Protocol where they are advised that they MUST follow Annex B of the Protocol. The adviser also did not know or understand what ADR meant. How can the public have confidence in PHSO staff that clearly do not know or care about what they are doing and the consequences of their actions?

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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