Andrew Mackenzie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, has instructed and coordinated an International Bar Association study into ombudsman services. The research culminated in a report which was published at IBA Rome earlier this month.
The report, written for the IBA by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, examines the broad range of ombudsman models used worldwide to bridge the gaps created by formal, expensive and lengthy dispute resolution processes. It explores how ombudsman services have become a significant feature of legal systems across many jurisdictions, developing from a constitutional accountability tool to an independent complaints mechanism widely used in the private sector.
Focusing on ombudsman offices whose mandate has a strong link with economic and social rights, the report includes analysis of good practice; the role of ombudsman bodies in dealing with corruption; schemes in the financial services, consumer and telecom sectors; the funding and legal restrictions faced by these services; and issues relating to digitalisation.
Welcoming the report, Rosemary Agnew, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, said:
“The title “Ombudsman (or Ombuds)” is often used generically in dispute resolution and complaint schemes. As this report so helpfully highlights, these schemes come in many different shapes and sizes. The report makes the challenge clear to those of us who have a legal or constitutional basis: ensure we protect and enhance the integrity of the title. It is more than simply saying what we do, but also about who we are, how we operate and the values and principles we seek to uphold.”
Mr Mackenzie, Co-Chair of the IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee, said:
“It has been a pleasure to work with the team at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law on our fascinating research project into ombudsman services and effective access to justice. I am also grateful to the IBA Public and Professional Interest Division for funding the project. The resulting report will provide a valuable tool for lawyers, other practitioners and civil society organisations involved in the design of reforms in the justice sector.
It is clear that ombudsman services are a key instrument in access to justice, often providing cost-effective justice models, including the use of alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration and mediation. However, ombudsman services are not part of the landscape in all jurisdictions. The international legal community, with its public interest duties, must scrutinise the extent to which such existing services aid access to justice and consider the possible benefits to the establishment of such schemes where no such provision exists. I hope this comprehensive study will lead to an international discussion on ombudsman services and their potential for enhanced access to justice.”
Mr Mackenzie will chair an event at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law on 6 December, where the findings of the report will be discussed further. The report can be accessed here: https://www.ibanet.org/PPID/Constituent/AccesstoJustice_LegalAid/Projects.aspx