Top public law silk stood down from independent review at Welsh ombudsman over Labour links

Top public law silk stood down from independent review at Welsh ombudsman over Labour links

James Goudie KC will no longer conduct an independent review into social media posts made by an officer at the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales after concerns were voiced about the barrister’s ties to the Labour party.

Goudie, who has been head of chambers at 11KBW for almost three decades, was set to lead an independent review into the Ombudsman’s former Head of Investigations, who was accused of political bias after making anti-conservative posts on social media.

Announcing the review last week (9 April), the Ombudsman, Michelle Morris, said she “fully accepts” that the watchdog needed to rebuild trust in the work of the organisation on complaints against councillors.

However, questions were raised over Goudie’s appointment by Conservative members of the Welsh Senedd.

In a statement made the day after the Ombudsman’s announcement, Sam Rowlands MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, said Goudie’s appointment raised “serious doubts” about Goudie and the review’s credibility.

Rowlands pointed towards Goudie’s past positions as a former Labour Council leader, former Labour candidate and a former Chair of the Society of Labour lawyers.

He said: “How can we expect a review under these circumstances to have the confidence of the public with such a barrister leading it?”

Commenting on Monday (15 April) on the decision to remove Goudie, the Ombudsman said: “PSOW announced last week that an independent review will take place to provide assurance that there has been no bias in its decision making and that the organisation continues to deliver an independent, fair and impartial service. 

“This follows the recent resignation of a member of staff following inappropriate and unacceptable social media posts.

“I recognise that it is essential that this review has the confidence of the Senedd and stakeholders across local government. Whilst I remain confident that James Goudie KC would have carried out the review with integrity, impartiality and professionalism, it is evident that concerns have been expressed by several people.”

They added: “I have listened to these views and have concluded that to continue would lead to a lack of confidence in the review and its findings. I have therefore reconsidered the appointment and will be seeking another person to lead this work instead.”

Rowlands, who welcomed the move, said: “This is the right decision from the Ombudsman, who risked undermining the probe with this appointment.

“It’s vital that whoever is appointed to conduct this investigation, they can command confidence in the process.”

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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