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Making a Complaint to the SFPA 

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 Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), you are entitled to make a complaint. We have established systems to facilitate this.

There are potentially four options:

  • Informal local resolution
  • Specific formal complaint for investigation by the SFPA
  • The formal invoking of the services of the independent Complaints Officer appointed under Section 49 of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act
  • 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 1 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:

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.

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 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:

Catherine Allen
Section 49 Complaints Officer
Mason Hayes & Curran
South Bank House
Barrow Street
Dublin 4

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
Dublin 2

Lo-call: 1890 223030 
Tel: 01 639 5600
Email: ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.ie

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 complaints 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.

Ombudsman for Children’s Office
52-56 Great Strand St
Dublin 1

Free Phone: 1800 20 20 40
Email: ococomplaint@oco.ie