The Office of the Ombudsman came into being in April 1999 with the appointment of Mr Henry Pinna as Gibraltar's first Public Services Ombudsman. His appointment was ratified unanimously by the House of Assembly. The appointment and its ratification were free from any controversial political debate and this helped tremendously in its acceptance by the general public.
Perhaps it is significant and of interest to point out that at the 1987 ceremony marking the commencement of the legal year, the then leader of the Bar, the late Mr. Samuel Benady QC spoke on a matter of importance affecting the rights of the individual. Mr. Benady pointed out that Gibraltar lacked the machinery to protect the individual against any act of maladministration by a government department. He explained how other jurisdictions had already established the office of the Ombudsman and proposed that the time had come for the appointment of such an Ombudsman here in Gibraltar to act on behalf of the community.
"The appointment of an Ombudsman would be a further assurance that those elected cannot, once in office, renege on their obligation to see justice done on behalf of every individual."
Twelve years had to elapse before Mr. Benady's proposal materialised and the office was established. This came about after the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD), in their electoral manifesto, had pledged that if elected they would create such an authority.
The Legal Framework
The Public Services Ombudsman Act 1998 defines its main function for the Ombudsman: to conduct investigations in accordance with the provisions of the Act.