About the team

We are independent researchers who study and gather information on the work of ombuds and complaint handlers in the UK.

Margaret Doyle is a consultant in appropriate dispute resolution (ADR) and an independent mediator. She is a part-time Senior Research Fellow for the UK Administrative Justice Institute, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and based at the University of Essex.

Margaret has a Master’s in Research in Law and Sociolegal Studies (Birkbeck, 2006) and has carried out research on small claims mediation for the Ministry of Justice, on consumer ADR for the National Consumer Council, and on mapping equalities and human rights dispute resolution services for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She is the author of a number of publications, including Advising on ADR (Advice Services Alliance 2000) and (with Varda Bondy), Mediation in Judicial Review: A practical handbook for lawyers (Public Law Project 2011).

As an independent mediator, Margaret specialises in disputes involving disability discrimination and special educational needs. She has been a panel mediator with the KIDS London SEN Mediation Service since 2004 and was a mediator with the Equalities Mediation Service (formerly Disability Conciliation Service) from its start in 2001. She trained as a mediator in 1987 and was accredited in 2005 by Mediation UK as part of the Legal Services Commission’s Mediation Quality Mark.

Margaret is an individual member of the Ombudsman Association and serves on its Validation Committee. She has served as a non-executive director of several ombudsman schemes: the Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales (2009-14); The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (2006-11); and Otelo/Ombudsman Services (2002-9). She is the independent complaints reviewer for the British Acupuncture Council and formerly served as independent complaints reviewer for IDRS Ltd (2012-2016), as independent assessor of complaints about Ombudsman Services Ltd (2011-14) and as the independent adjudicator for London Borough of Lewisham (2008-9 and 2010-11). She is a consultant trainer on the Queen Margaret University Certificate in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice course.

Carolyn Hirst has expertise in dispute prevention, management and resolution. She is a former Deputy Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, a post she held from September 2002 until 2007. Before that she worked in Social Rented Housing for nearly 20 years, latterly as a Deputy Director of a Housing and Care Organisation. Carolyn now works as an independent consultant through her own company, Hirstworks.

Recent work includes independent investigations, complaints system design, complaints training and complaint review. In 2009 she co-authored a review of the role, activities and future direction of the UK and Irish Ombudsman Association. She is an accredited and practising Mediator, being a member of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and Edinburgh Sheriff Court Mediation Panels, and Mediation Practice Supervisor for Edinburgh Cyrenians.

Carolyn is a Lay Member of Employment Tribunals (Scotland) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is a Visiting Lecturer at Queen Margaret University where she co-designs and delivers open accredited courses on Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice and bespoke training for the Scottish Police Complaints Commission, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Ombudsmen, the English and Welsh Legal Ombudsman, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Welsh Language Commissioner and the University of Wales.

Varda Bondy has been a part-time Senior Research Fellow at Essex University as part of the UK Administrative Justice Institute project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. She is formerly Senior Research Fellow at De Montfort University and former Research Director at the Public Law Project.

Since leaving private practice as a legal aid solicitor in 2001 she has been involved in numerous empirical research projects in the field of public law and administrative justice, including the following Nuffield-funded projects: The Impact of the Human Rights Act on Judicial Review, (2003); The Impact of the HRA on Service Delivery in Essex: A Pilot, (2004, with Sunkin); The Permission Stage in Judicial Review (with Sunkin), published as The Dynamics of Judicial Review Litigation (2009); Mediation and Judicial Review, (2009 with Margaret Doyle, Val Reid and Linda Mulcahy); Mediation in Judicial Review: a practical handbook for lawyers (2011,with Margaret Doyle); Design and Choice of Redress Mechanisms (2012 with Andrew Le Sueur, Queen Mary University of London).

Varda has presented at conferences nationwide and published in the legal press as well as in peer reviewed academic publications, including ‘Settlement in Judicial Review’ (with Sunkin) [2009] Public Law 237-259; ‘Accessing Judicial Review’ (with Sunkin) [2009] Public Law 647-667. She is currently completing a major Nuffield-funded research on the effect and value of judicial review. Her research reports have been widely cited and are regarded in academic circles as well as among practitioners and policy makers as having had significant impact.