Dear Mr. Robinson,
As the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration is away from the office at present, I am replying to your letter of 30 April (received here on 5 May) enclosing correspondence from your constituent Mrs E Wright of 4 Norwood Gardens, Belfast in connection with her complaint about the way in which the Official Solicitor and the Office of Care and Protection have handled the affairs of her brother Freddie.
I have carefully considered the papers presented but I regret that, for the reasons set out below, I very much doubt whether the Parliamentary Commissioner can be of assistance to Mrs Wright.
The jurisdictional position is complicated. Please bear with me while I explain it.
The Parliamentary Commissioner can, in principle, investigate the administrative actions of the Northern Ireland Court Service (NICS). Since section 110 of the Courts and Legal Service Act 1990 came into effect on 1 January 1991 the Parliamentary Commissioner has also been able to investigate the administrative actions of court staff, though not actions taken at the direction, or on the authority ( whether express of implied) of any person acting in a judicial capacity.
That section has, however, no retrospective effect and the Parliamentary Commissioner's ability to investigate the administrative actions of court staff before that date are still more circumscribed. He has no power to investigate judicial decisions of the courts, either before or after January 1991. From the description Mrs Wright has given it appears that the actions and decisions of the Official Solicitor and the Office of Care and Protection in the present case have been sanctioned by the Court. I note that the agreement with Tughan & Co about which Mrs Wright complains was said to be subject to the Court's approval, while the Official Solicitor's conduct of Freddie's affairs would also have been subject to the general jurisdiction of and supervision by the Court. If that is the case the matters about which she complains are outside the Parliamentary Commissioner's jurisdiction.
Mrs Wright asks if the Parliamentary Commissioner could refer the matter to, or direct her towards, any other appropriate body who might be able to deal with her complaint. Other than the Lord Chancellor, to whom it appears she has already written, none come to mind.
As the Parliamentary Commissioner cannot help Mrs Wright, I return the papers which you sent, together with (for you file) a copy of her letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner.
J E Avery
Deputy to the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Administration.