Chief Legal Ombudsman Resigns After Expenses Row

Adam Sampson

Adam Sampson

The chief legal ombudsman has resigned from his £161,000 post following a dispute in relation to the unpublished annual accounts of the complaints service.

A spokesman for the ombudsman’s office said: ‘We can confirm that Adam Sampson has resigned as chief ombudsman and chief executive.’

Sampson (pictured) the former Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust, told staff earlier on Monday that he was to bring an end to more than five years in the post following his suspension last week. The announcement followed an investigation into ‘governance issues’, the Ministry of Justice said.

The row is believed to concern expenses claimed in the organisation’s 2013/14 annual accounts. These were due to be published in June but have yet to appear.

The Legal Ombudsman’s office said last week that the accounts were finished and had been filed with the National Audit Office and MoJ for approval.

It is understood that Sampson was authorised by the Office for Legal Complaints to claim for trips by train from his workplace in Birmingham to meetings in London. On these visits, Sampson would stay at his family home in the capital.

Sampson, 54, said that the arrangement saved money for the service and had been in place for four years before any concerns were flagged up. While in Birmingham, he would stay in a hotel at his own expense, he added. In total, he is estimated to have claimed around £20,000 in travel expenses in five years.

According to the annual accounts for 2012/13, Sampson received a total package of £161,245, which comprised of a £129,675 salary, £20,475 pension and £11,095 other benefits.

These other benefits were broken down as a ‘travel remuneration supplement allowance’ of £7,000 and a ‘flexible benefit allowance’ of £4,095.

An investigation by City firm Simmons & Simmons found he had not acted improperly, he said.

Sampson said: ‘Although it is clear from the independent report and all the scrutiny of my expenses claims that I have not been dishonest and my integrity is intact, an ombudsman must be a figure above controversy.

‘I do not want issues around LeO’s accounts to distract from the tremendous work that the organisation does.’

Sampson was a high-profile and visible figure, often appearing at conferences to explain ombudsman policy and creating a regular blog on the ombudsman website. He previously worked as chief executive of the homeless charity Shelter and for a number of non-governmental bodies.

A spokesman for the MoJ confirmed that permanent secretary Ursula Brennan, formerly at the Ministry of Defence, has been temporarily installed as the accounting officer for the Legal Ombudsman.

He added: ‘Last Thursday we suspended the chief executive of the Office for Legal Complaints from his role as the organisation’s accounting officer, following an investigation into concerns raised about governance issues.’

A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘The Legal Ombudsman service has an important role to play in investigating consumer complaints. We will continue to engage with the service as transition arrangements are put in place and a new chief executive is appointed.’

The office of the LeO was created in 2010 under the Legal Services Act to replace the Legal Complaints Service. Sampson was the first chief ombudsman.

In his first interview in the role Sampson said in 2010 that some of the office’s approaches would ‘challenge the cultural assumptions of the profession’.

Mark Leech, Editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales, said:

“I have known Adam Sampson for 20 years and respected him completely during that time – and I have not changed that view at all.

“It says a great deal about the man and his principles that despite being cleared of any wrong-doing he decided to go rather than become the story over-shadowing the tremendous work he has done.”

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