Ministry of Justice’s consultation with community when deciding on Youth Residence site not unreasonable
Ministry of Justice announced site of a youth residence premises—concerns that consultation process not appropriately carried out with local community—complaint that advice to Minister from Ministry unreasonable—Ombudsman concluded advice was not unreasonable and consultation process appropriate
The complainant represented a group of persons who opposed the siting in their community, of a residence for young offenders. The recommendation to site the residence in the community in question was made by the Site Selection Steering Committee and approved by the Minister of Justice. The complaint was that the report by Ministry officials to the Minister was flawed and that the Ministry did not consult appropriately with the local community.
The Chief Ombudsman did not find any evidence to demonstrate unreasonable actions by Ministry officials and did not sustain the complaint. The Ombudsman concluded that the advice provided to the Minister was set out in a factual and impartial manner, containing reliable and accurate detail. The advice was absent of any recommendation to the Minister as to the decision he should make and the Ombudsman could not discern any particular advocacy by the Minister for the site in question.
The Ombudsman also found that the consultation with the community was carried out in accordance with an appropriately detailed consultation/communication plan, which was approved by the Minister. Local residences were given a reasonable opportunity to express their views as to the siting of the residence and the Ministry set out the results of the consultation for the Minister in a clear and unambiguous manner. The Minister was left in no doubt as to the level of opposition to the residence. The Ombudsman concluded that the fact that the Minister nevertheless elected to support the residence was the result of his exercising his prerogative to do so, and not the result of any malfeasance on the part of his officials.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.