The purpose of the Office is to investigate complaints from applicants for judicial appointments of alleged maladministration by the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (the Commission) or by Committees of the Commission.

In investigating a complaint the Ombudsman aims to be impartial, accessible and effective. In the event of maladministration being upheld the Ombudsman will seek redress and, through recommendation and constructive feedback, aim to improve standards and practices in the organisation concerned.

Powers and remit of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman (NIJAO) was first established in September 2006 under the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 (as amended by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005). As of 1 April 2016 the Office operates under Section 58 and Schedule 6 of the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman Act 2016 (the 2016 Act).

The Office is completely independent of the Government and the judiciary.

The NIJAO may make recommendations to the Lord Chancellor and the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) about what steps should be taken in relation to a complaint which has been upheld.

The Ombudsman may also offer advice on changes to procedures that have come to her attention as a result of a complaint. She also has the power to recommend compensation be paid to successful complainants for loss suffered as a result of maladministration, but not in respect of any earnings that the complainant would have received had their application for appointment been successful.

Making a complaint

The Ombudsman will consider individual complaints from applicants for judicial appointment where there are allegations of maladministration by the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (the Commission), Committees of the Commission, or by the Lord Chancellor in respect of his role in making recommendations for appointment.

What we can investigate

The Ombudsman can investigate complaints from applicants for judicial office about the way in which their application was handled.

Types of investigation

The Ombudsman may investigate complaints against the Commission (or any other party involved in handling of the initial complaint) alleging issues such as:

  • provision of inaccurate or misleading information;
  • prejudice against a complainant;
  • failure to recognise the seriousness of a complaint;
  • failure to respond in a reasonable timescale; and
  • not responding to a complaint in accordance with laid down procedures.

The Ombudsman will not investigate complaints from:

  • anyone other than candidates for judicial office;
  • candidates in relation to anything other than the competition for which they were a candidate; and
  • candidates who do not claim to have been adversely affected.

The Ombudsman may decline to take up a judicial appointment complaint if the complainant has not already complained to the Commission or Lord Chancellor, as appropriate.

The Ombudsman does not have to take up a complaint made more that twenty eight days after the complainant has been notified of the Commission or Lord Chancellor’s decision on the matter complained of, but may do so at any time if he considers it appropriate.

The Ombudsman will not investigate complaints relating to judicial conduct as these continue to be dealt with by the Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland.

What to expect from us

We will acknowledge your complaint within three working days of receipt. We will look at it – together with any supporting material – to see whether we can help. If we need more information, we will get in touch with you. We may also want to discuss the details with you. We will contact you to let you know how we will investigate your complaint and give you regular updates on our progress. At the end of our investigation we will send you a letter or report explaining our final decision.


There is no right of appeal against the NIJAO’s recommendations.

How to make a complaint

The Ombudsman’s office looks into complaints in an open, fair and transparent way. We deal with all those involved in the complaints process politely, promptly and in strict confidence.

Complaints should be in writing and signed (unless sent by e-mail). You should include the following:

  • Your name and preferred contact details;
  • Details of your complaint and
  • Any information that you feel would assist the Ombudsman in investigating your complaint.

Download the form

You can download a complaint form to print off, complete and submit to the Ombudsman.

Get a form sent out to you

You can have a complaint form posted to you by telephoning 02890233821 or 02890897794.

Other responsibilities

Other responsibilities include:

  • raising awareness and highlighting the strategic direction for the NIJAO among members of the public, the legal profession and other interested groups;
  • liaising with the Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman in England and Wales; and
  • producing an annual report on the discharge of his/her functions, which must be laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In investigating a complaint the NIJAO aims to be impartial, accessible and effective within the limits of her authority. In so doing she has a duty of care equally to complainants and those complained about. In the event of maladministration the NIJAO will seek redress and through recommendation and constructive feedback aim to improve standards and practices in the authorities concerned.

Mailing list subscription

The organisation you are linked to
What sector or industry best describes your organisation's area of interest
Manage your subscriptions