FCO unfair treatment

Following the recent complaints published on this blog, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office seem confused about;

– whether, “Matt Harland is just vexatious”, and  “we will no longer correspond with him” – he does not have the “right to reply” from the British government.


– “Matt Harland is entitled to a reply from the FCO”


– “Matt Harland’s complaint is already with the Ombudsman and the FCO is in contact with the PHSO regarding the case”.

All three of these government versions have been received in a matter of days.

However, the FCO Director of Consular services has still not responded to complaints as per published FCO procedure.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond (MP) has still not responded as per the published FCO procedure.

The procedure is published in the FCO booklet, “Support for British nationals abroad”, the booklet has been awarded the crystal clear mark – a standard of good, plain English.
Yet the FCO are still not able or not willing to follow their own crystal clear process.
It seems quite evident that their is a complete lack of leadership regarding the case of Matt Harland at the FCO.

Dear Mr Harland, 

Thank you for your email which has been forward to us by the FCO Correspondence Team for reply.

We have previously advised you that you have now exhausted the FCO complaints procedure and have signposted you to the Parliamentary and Health Services Health Ombudsman (PHSO).

Comment : the complaint was regarding a previous issue from 2011. The FCO do not understand this is a new complaint, with new evidence, dated 2014.

I attach two letters from Charles Hay, the then Director Consular Services, for your reference. 

Charles Hay left the FCO at some point between 2011 and 2012, Matt Harland’s new complaints are regarding his appearances at the Appeal and Supreme Courts, ending in 2014 – where he was again denied the basic right to a fair trial.

We know that you previously referred your complaint to the PHSO before the complaints procedure here had been completed and this was referred back to us – we then continued and sent you our Stage 2 complaint response and follow up as attached. 

Matt Harland only has the information contained in the booklet “Support for British nationals abroad”, which was delivered to him after 830 days of detention – the booklet does not detail any “stage 2” complaints procedure – this FCO jargon is confusing and not up to the crystal clear standard previously awarded.
As far as I am aware, Matt Harland has never received a “stage 2 complaint response and follow up” – where was this document sent?

The PHSO wrote to us in early 2013 and advised that they would look again at your complaint but we have not had any further instruction from them.

Matt Harland did not request that the Ombudsman should “look again”, does this indicate that somebody made a mistake?

I regret therefore that the responsibility rests with you to contact the PHSO again and ask them to look into your case.

This is wrong! Matt Harland has made a new complaint, dated 2014, containing new evidence, relating to different events – posted years after Charles Hay left the FCO.
Why does Matt Harland constantly have to point out simple things like dates to FCO staff?

In case you are not able to download the attachments, contact details are as follows:- 


The Parliament and Health Service Ombudsman, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP), 

We did receive your complaints of 14November or 1 December 2014; we did not reply as we had no obligation to do so; the vexatious nature of your previous communication resulted in a decision to close your case in December 2012 and signpost you to the PHSO.

Who made this decision and why wasn’t Matt Harland informed of this arbitrary judgement?
What exactly does the term “vexatious nature” mean? It is not in the FCO publication, however, Matt Harland has treated all FCO staff with an extraordinary level of respect, especially considering the poor level of service and attention to duty of care offered.

I am writing to youtoday as a courtesy and to let you know that we will not reply again to any of your emails.

At least until next week when the FCO will write a completely different email, via a third party charity organisation.

Please contact the PHSO and they will decide if they consider your complaint eligible for investigation. 
Feedback Team
Consular Services


Email delivered via third party organisation;

You asked us to forward a complaint to the FCO back in November and to let you know if we heard back from them.

I understand that previously they had stopped all correspondence with you which may be why you did not get a response to some previous enquiries.
However, as you have now submitted a formal complaint they do have to respond to this.
They have said that they are taking your complaint forward and you should receive a notification to this effect.
They will not, however, deal with [name removed] on your behalf and will only report back to you directly about your complaint.

I hope this clears things up and that you get a response from them sometime in the New Year.

A new Complaint to the Director of Consular Services, dated 25th December 2014.

Matt Harland is concerned that he has been unfairly judged as having a “vexacious nature”.
He is also confused by the apparent lack of due process, misleading emails (examples above) and the jargon used by FCO staff.

Matt Harland would like to raise the following complaints and questions to the Director of Consular Services;

1 – does the complaints procedure in the FCO booklet “Support for British nationals abroad” apply to Matt Harland?

2 – has the procedure been replaced?

3 – has the FCO guide been reprinted?

4 – if so, will Matt Harland be issued with an updated copy? Note, the previous copy was delivered 830 days late.

5 – does the new version explain the term “vexatious nature” or provide examples?

6 – which of these examples has been violated by Matt Harland?

7 – my dictionary lists nature as a “innate or essential of a character of a person” – can this really be determined by a civil servant in London? Or by locally employed staff in Cambodia?

8 – what training is given to FCO staff, which allow them to make the decision (based on minimal direct contact) that any person, or their complaint is of a “vexatious nature”?

9 – “vexatious” is listed as “the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds, purely to cause annoyance”.
The complaint was regarding Matt Harland’s right to a trial.
These are the grounds;
– Matt Harland has never been allowed to face / cross examine his accusers.
– Matt Harland has not been allowed to present his defence in court (recorded by the British embassy)
– Matt Harland did not have free use of an interpreter (recorded by the British embassy)
– Matt Harland has never been allowed to respond to points raised by the prosecution in court (recorded by the British embassy)
– “The conduct of court officials was unprofessional”, words of the British embassy observer.
– Matt Harland was asked to pay $15,000 to a corrupt court, just for a fair trial (openly reported to the embassy, FCO and Cambodian authorities).
– Matt Harland had to resort to a FOI request, just to receive these notes!
Are these not grounds to claim that Matt Harland has not received a fair trial?
Who in the FCO is caused annoyance by Matt Harland’s minimum rights to a fair trial?

10 – who (or which position) made the decision that Matt Harland’s “nature” is vexatious and under what authority?

11 – a member of FCO staff, has decided that a British national, in distress, has a “vexatious nature” (a confusing term, one may consider jargon).
He did not receive the FCO guidelines until after this decision.
Nevertheless, the guidelines, which have been awarded the “crystal clear mark” does not include the jargon “vexatious nature”.
Does the Director of Consular Services really believe that using jargon, which is not printed in the crystal clear guidelines, which were not given to the British national in distress, until after 830 days of detention, when he has no access to reference materials or legal advice is a fair decision?

12 – the confusing emails, featuring jargon and a conflicting message from unnamed FCO staff (featured above), would normally require some kind of request for clarification – would you consider a request for clear communication from FCO staff vexatious?

13 – Matt Harland is forced to labour points such as the above because;
– he normally has to wait, up to six months for either a erroneous reply, or;
– a reply which indicates the FCO has not been able to understand the situation from a brief explanation, or:
– most commonly, no reply whatsoever.
– Matt Harland is in prison
– Matt Harland has not received a fair trial (recorded by embassy staff)
– local hired staff are not permitted to discuss these matters with Matt Harland (or the reason why?)
– Matt Harland believes that it is necessary, from experience, to labour and repeat the points in the hope that someone will first understand, and second respond
– Matt Harland is a British national in distress, who is seeking consular assistance – in seeking his right to a fair trial.
– just because Matt Harland has the time and motivation to challenge FCO staff over the quality of their work and the attention to their duty, does not make his arguments less valid.
Is it possible that FCO staff have construed Matt Harland’s tenacity as vexatious?

I look forward to receiving a response from the Director of Consular Services, within the 20 working day timescale.

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