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Two reprimands issued by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in guardianship matters

Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen issued reprimands to the Local Register Office of Eastern Finland and the Public Guardianship Services in Kainuu in matters that concerned guardianship services.

The Local Register Office had started investigating the need for guardianship services of a complainant and his spouse based on a petition that was obviously unsubstantiated.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman found that the Local Register Office had, without proper cause, violated the interested parties' protection of privacy and right to self-determination, which are safeguarded as fundamental rights.

The Public Guardianship had neglected to consult a principal before cleaning her flat and clearing out some of her belongings. 

Insubstantial grounds

In an e-mail received by the Local Register Office, the sender demanded that a guardian be appointed for the couple in question. The justifications for this demand included the following claims: "I have known A from childhood...Unfortunately she is my sister. She never understood the difference between what is hers and what isn't. She has got through life by cheating... Stealing my money from the estate... Now she has found a like-minded  B (spouse)...a guardian should be appointed for that scumbag, too."

The Local Register Office had started investigating the couple's need for guardianship services and requested medical certificates on the couple from the health centre. After being contacted by the complainant, the Local Register Office had found that the petition was groundless and cancelled the requests for medical certificates. Regardless of this, the health centre had contacted the complainant and his spouse for the purpose of assessing their need for guardianship services, and this was also noted in their patient documents.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman considers that the Local Register Office had started its investigation on obviously insubstantial grounds. Medical certificates had been routinely requested without first contacting the person having submitted the petition for additional information or consulting the interested parties.

The petition gave no indication that the couple were unable to look after their financial or other interests, or that they were at risk of being taken advantage of financially. The e-mail message mainly contained vitriolic comments about them, and even allegations of criminal activity.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman found the action of the Local Register Office highly unusual and issued a reprimand to it.

A petition for guardianship services is not an instrument of harassment

The Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that the mere investigation of the need for guardianship services may in many ways violate a person's fundamental rights, as an investigation of his or her state of health, housing conditions and financial circumstances is initiated.

- The Local Register Office should pay particular attention to whether or not, based on the petition, it is obvious that the person in question needs a guardian to protect his or her interests and rights.

The purpose of the petition for guardianship services is that those in need of protection can have access to the services. It is not intended as an instrument of harassment, Parliamentary Ombudsman notes.

The guardian did not consult the principal

In Kainuu, the Public Guardianship Services had carried out a thorough clean-up in the complainant's flat while she was at the hospital.  In connection with the cleaning, belongings that the cleaner felt were useless had been disposed of.

According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the clean-up operation and the disposal of the principal?s belongings meant that the complainant's protection of private life had been violated. This matter was of particular importance to the complainant, and consequently, she should have been consulted before going ahead. The guardian did not even claim that consulting the principal would have been impossible because of her state of health or of any other reason.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman did not find it sufficient that the hospital staff had discussed the clean-up with the complainant, and the guardian should have consulted the principal in person. This duty was not cancelled out by the fact that having the flat cleaned was quite necessary as such.

The full text of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen's decisions no 3746/4/15 and 3050/4/15 (in Finnish).
Further information is available from Senior Legal Advisor Mikko Sarja, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3364.