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Appointment Of New Service Complaints Ombudsman Approved

Mariette Hughes will fill the role left by Nicola Williams, the first Service Complaints Ombudsman, at the end of the year.

The appointment of a new Service Complaints Ombudsman has been approved.

Mariette Hughes will fill the role left following the departure of Nicola Williams, the first Service Complaints Ombudsman, at the end of the year.

Since March 2018, Ms Hughes has been the Head of External Affairs, Service Policy and Impact with the Legal Ombudsman.

She also currently holds the interim posts of Chief Ombudsman and Director of Operations.

Defence Committee Chair Tobias Ellwood MP said he was "delighted" to approve the appointment, adding the "importance of the role… cannot be overstated".

"It is vital that service personnel feel able to come forward and that the right mechanisms are in place to support those who wish to lodge a complaint," he said.

The appointment comes after the Defence Select Committee’s pre-appointment hearing on 1 December.

Ms Hughes said earlier this week the "number of people who express an unwillingness to complain" was a key issue.

Anonymous Army recruits
(Picture: British Army).

She also outlined the "overrepresentation of black and minority ethnic personnel (BAME)" in the complaints system as a key issue that needed to be addressed.

Mr Ellwood agreed, saying: "We hope that the Defence Committee’s new inquiry exploring the issues faced by women in the Armed Forces will help inform and guide the Ombudsman’s work during her tenure."

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) conducted a review of the service complaints commission following recommendations from the Service Complaints Ombudsman.

It also considered recommendations from the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston, following his report on inappropriate behaviours in defence.

The changes are aimed at reforming the current Service Complaints system to deal with complaints made by service personnel more quickly and effectively.

The position of Service Complaints Ombudsman was created in 2015 and offers an alternative route for service personnel who do not wish to approach the chain of command with allegations.

The Ombudsman produces an annual report on the fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of the Service Complaints system.

Cover image: Mariette Hughes during her pre-appointment hearing earlier this week.