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Code of Practice for OLC Members

Members agree to adhere to this Code of Practice (or any modification of it agreed by the OLC) and at all times act in good faith and in the best interests of the OLC and Legal Ombudsman.

Public service values

Members must at all times:

  • comply with The Seven Principles of Public Life, as set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (Annex A);
  • maintain the highest standards of propriety involving integrity, impartiality and objectivity in relation to the stewardship of public funds and the management of the OLC;
  • maximise value for money by ensuring that the OLC operates in the most economic, effective and efficient way, within available resources, and with independent validation of performance achieved wherever practicable; and
  • be accountable for the activities of the OLC and Legal Ombudsman, their stewardship of public funds, and the extent to which key performance targets and objectives have been met to Parliament, the public, other stakeholders and the LSB

Delegation

Members serve on a part-time basis. Responsibility for specified matters may be delegated within a clearly understood framework of strategic control to individual members, committees (or their subcommittees) or members of the Legal Ombudsman Executive Management Team (EMT).

The OLC will adopt a schedule of matters reserved to the OLC, Terms of Reference for an Audit and Risk Committee, Remuneration and Nomination Committee and a scheme of delegations to the Chief Executive.

Conduct

Members cautioned for or charged with a criminal offence, other than a parking or speeding offence without aggravating circumstances, must report the matter at the earliest opportunity to the Chairman. If the Chairman is the Member in question, the matter must be reported to the Chairman of the LSB.

Members subject to finance-related legal proceedings, or aware of matters relating to conduct that may affect their position or the reputation of the OLC, must report the matter at the earliest opportunity to the Chairman. If the Chairman is the member in question, the matter must be reported to the Chairman of the LSB.

Members must avoid any action that involves (or may be seen as involving) the exploitation or misuse of their position for private purposes. Grievances and complaints received against members will be administered by the LSB under the terms of their published policy, a copy of which is available from the LSB website.

Criminal and civil liability

Paragraph 34 of Schedule 15 to the Act exempts members from liability in damages for anything done or omitted in the exercise or purported exercise of the functions of the Board conferred by or by virtue of any enactment, subject to certain specified exemptions (related to acts or omissions that were in bad faith or were unlawful under section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998).

A member may be liable for breach of confidence under common law or under other legislation if he or she misuses information gained by virtue of his or her position.

Confidentiality

Sections 167-168 of the Act prohibit the disclosure of restricted information (as defined), subject to certain exceptions.

Concerns about propriety

In accordance with recommendation 53 in the Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee), the Chairman is entrusted with the duty of investigating a colleague’s concerns about propriety raised confidentially. Colleagues are accordingly able to make a complaint at this level without going through the normal management structure. If a colleague remains dissatisfied, he or she may take the matter to the Chairman of the LSB Board or alternatively the Permanent Secretary of MoJ.

Interests

Members are entitled to manage their own affairs in private. However, the work of the OLC must (and must be seen) to be carried out in an environment that is free from any suggestion of improper influence. Those providing information to the OLC must be confident that it will be handled properly and that conflicts of interests will be identified quickly and handled properly.

The OLC recognises the input and value of its statutory non-lay members and it is not considered that their status alone represents a conflict of interests.

Members will abide by the published LSB policy in respect of Board Members’ interests, which will require a register of interests to be maintained and to be published. This will be available from the Legal Ombudsman website.

Expenses

Members will abide by the published LSB policy in respect of the reimbursement of expenses (including travel and subsistence) reasonably and necessarily incurred on behalf of the OLC, which will require a register of expenses to be maintained and to be published. This will be available from the Legal Ombudsman website.

Corporate gifts and hospitality

Members will abide by the published LSB policy in respect of corporate gifts and hospitality which will require a register of corporate gifts and hospitality to be maintained and to be published. This will be available from the Legal Ombudsman website.

Public speaking, external events and journalists

The Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer will normally act as spokespersons for the OLC and/or the Legal Ombudsman; though others may be invited by them undertake specific engagements.

If members attend events or write articles where issues related to OLC, Legal Ombudsman or LSB policy may be raised, they should make it clear that their opinions are being offered in a personal capacity and, in any event, they should not express views at variance from agreed policy. Members should advise the Legal Ombudsman’s Head of External Affairs about such events or articles.

In general, members are not restricted from access to the media in their non-OLC capacity, or in pursuit of a professional interest.

Invitations to attend or to speak at industry or stakeholder events should be referred in advance, to the Legal Ombudsman’s Head of External Affairs.

Political activities

It would be inappropriate given the OLC’s status as independent of government for any Member to engage in active politics. This includes: membership of the House of Commons, a devolved assembly or parliament, or the European Parliament; seeking adoption or selection as a candidate or prospective candidate for election to these bodies; membership of local authorities; seeking adoption or selection as a candidate or prospective candidate for election to local authorities, other than parish councils; and acting as a party spokesman in the House of Lords. Advice is available from the Chairman or OLC Secretary

Data Protection Act 1998

Where the Legal Ombudsman gathers information about Members then such information will be gathered and used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Freedom of information

The Legal Ombudsman is a public authority subject to Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) 2000. Information held by the Legal Ombudsman might be disclosed in response to a request for information, unless it constitutes exempt information under Part 2 of FoIA 2000.

Termination of office

On termination of office, members must return all Legal Ombudsman property (including but not limited to documents and software, credit cards, computer equipment, keys and security passes) to the OLC Secretary. All LSB property must be returned to the LSB Secretary.

Annex A

The Seven Principles of Public Life

Selflessness

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and action to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.Leadership Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.public-standards.gov.uk/