If you, as a service user/member of the public, feel that you have been unfairly or unreasonably treated in relation to the enforcement of sea-fisheries law or food safety law by any staff member or action of the SFPA you are entitled to make a complaint. We have established systems to facilitate this.
There are potentially four options, ranging from: informal local resolution; specific formal complaint for investigation by the Authority; the formal invoking of the services of the independent Complaints Officer appointed under Section 49 of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act; and the formal examination of a complaint by the Government Ombudsman. Note: Under the provisions of Section 49 of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, complaints must be made to the Complaints Officer within 28 days of the event concerned.
The SFPA seeks to carry out its functions in a professional manner and is subject to the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012. According to the Act, the Ombudsman’s office will be empowered to examine complaints arising from any action taken by or on behalf of a Government agency in the performance of administrative function where the action occurred after 1st May 2013. A complainant is required to exhaust the SFPA’s complaints procedure before approaching the Ombudsman.
The SFPA’s staff are informed and guided by the guide to best practice, including: Ombudsman's guide to standards of best practice for Public Servants. Nevertheless, situations may arise whereby people feel aggrieved by an action of the SFPA in the enforcement of either sea-fisheries or food safety law. The SFPA has therefore established a complaints procedure which provide an efficient and credible system for airing grievances, based upon guidance provided by the Ombudsman on internal complaints systems, and the obligations of Section 49 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006.
Local Communication at the Time of the Event
Grievances are frequently attributable to breakdowns in communication. The recommended starting point is for a complainant to attempt to seek resolution at the local Port Office where events surrounding the complaint have taken place. Initially, direct communication with Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPOs) carrying out the enforcement at the time the event arises may be of benefit in resolving issues arising at a local level. Direct, open communication at the time the event arises is often the best course of action for all concerned. Persons who feel aggrieved by the actions of any SFPA personnel should, on a timely basis, request of that person additional clarification regarding the basis for the actions taken or of other matters of perceived concern. Input from the SFPA Senior Port Officer responsible for the region where the event occurred can be requested to assist in reaching resolution. Complaints may be made on behalf of an individual by their Producer Organisation or other recognised representative organisation.
If the complainant feels their complaint is not sufficiently dealt with by the Senior Port Officer, the recommended route to take is to forward the complaint to the SFPA’s Head Office (see contact details below).
A complainant may also forward their complaint directly to the SFPA’s Head Office without input from the Senior Port Officer based where the event has occurred. However it is strongly recommended that complaints are resolved locally, if at all possible. If the complaint is not resolved locally, the complainant can then forward their complaint to the SFPA’s Head Office.
Making a Complaint to the SFPA’s Head Office
A written complaint may be submitted to the SFPA, by post, fax, or email to its head office:
Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority
Clonakilty, Co Cork
Fax 023 8859720 (Please mark for Attention of SFPA Complaints)
The complaint should bear the name, address and other contact details for the complainant, along with the subject matter of the complaint, including the date when the event arose together with any other relevant details. Complaints may be made on behalf of an individual by their Producer Organisation or other recognised representative organisation.
The SFPA will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within five working days, indicating the complainant’s right to make a complaint to the Section 49 Complaints Officer, where relevant. The SFPA will treat the complaint with due regard for the privacy and confidentiality of the complainant. The SFPA will examine the events surrounding the complaint. The investigation will be carried out by SFPA personnel, other than those involved in the events resulting in the complaint. As part of that investigation, SFPA may seek additional information or clarification from the complainant. If the Section 49 Complaints Officer is not involved, the SFPA will in ordinary circumstances provide a response to the complainant with the outcome of that investigation within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint.
Complainants can submit the necessary receipts associated with the complaint which will be reimbursed by the SFPA.
Making a Complaint under Section 49 of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006
The SFPA has appointed a Complaints Officer from outside of the Authority to consider and report independently of the Authority on complaints made under section 49 of the Act. A written complaint may be submitted to the Complaints Officer by post to the following address:
Section 49 Complaints Officer
Mason Hayes & Curran
South Bank House
Complaints under this procedure may only relate to the enforcement of sea-fisheries or food safety law. Complainants may make a complaint to the Section 49 Complaints Officer at any stage within 28 days of the event. Complaints may be made on behalf of an individual by their Producer Organisation or other recognised representative organisation.
The Section 49 Complaints Officer may seek additional information from the complainant, or the SFPA, and will then issue a report to the Authority within three months of receipt of the complaint. The SFPA will have regard to that report and advise the complainant and the Section 49 Complaints Officer of its decision on the matter within 10 working days of receipt of the report.
Section 49 of the Act specifically precludes consideration of a complaint under that section if the subject matter relates to any matter subject to court proceedings before a court or other tribunal; or if it is subject to a complaint to the Ombudsman or an appeal to the Information Commissioner.
A complainant may forward their complaint directly to the Section 49 Complaints Officer within 28 days if the complaint relates specifically to the enforcement of sea-fisheries or food safety law. However, it is recommended that the complaint is forwarded to the SFPA’s Head Office who can investigate if the complaint can be resolved at that point before forwarding to the Section 49 Complaints Officer. If it is found that the complaint relates specifically to the enforcement of sea-fisheries or food safety law, the SFPA will forward the complaint to the Section 49 Complaints Officer.
If a complaint relates to a file that has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Section 49 Complaints Officer will examine the complaint while ensuring that details provided do not prejudice future court proceedings.
If the complaint relates specifically to the administrative functions of the SFPA and is not resolved during investigations at the SFPA’s Head Office, the complainant has the option of forwarding the complaint to the Ombudsman.
Making a Complaint to the Ombudsman
If a complaint has not been resolved by the SFPA’s complaints procedures, and if the complaint concerns the administrative actions of the SFPA, the complainant can forward their complaint to the Ombudsman’s Office by post to:
The Ombudsman Office
18 Lower Leeson Lane,
Or telephone: Lo-call: 1890 223030 | Tel: 01 639 5600
Or submit a completed online complaint form at Ombudsman's online complaint form
It is not recommended that a complainant directly contacts the Ombudsman Office to investigate their complaint without availing of the SFPA’s complaints procedure. If a complainant contacts the Ombudsman’s office directly, staff at the Ombudsman will enquire if the complainant has followed the SFPA’s complaints procedure - the complainant will be requested to follow the SFPA’s complaint’s procedure first. If the complaint is not resolved during the SFPA’s complaints procedure, the Ombudsman will then examine the complaint with the assistance of the SFPA. The Ombudsman will not consider a complaint if the subject matter relates to any matter subject to court proceedings.
Ombudsman for Children’s Office
If you are a child or young person under 18 or an adult who knows a child who you feel has been unfairly treated, or you are not satisfied with our decision on your complaint, it is open to you to contact the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. By law the Ombudsman for Children’s Office can investigate complaints about any of our administrative actions or procedures as well as delays or inaction in dealings with us. The Ombudsman for Children provides an impartial, independent and free complaints handling service.
Contact details are as follows:
Ombudsman for Children’s Office
52-56 Great Strand St
Free Phone: 1800 20 20 40