Complaints about court

This page looks at how you can complain about court, when you can complain. And what you can do if you are not happy with the outcome of
your complaint. This page only looks at complaints about the Crown and magistrates’ courts of the criminal court system in England and
Wales.

Overview

  • There are different reasons you may want to complain about the court system. For example, you may feel that the court did not follow the rules. Or you may be unhappy with how a judge has behaved.
  • There are different processes for complaining. The process you need will depend on what you are unhappy with.
  • There are time limits if you want to complain. You should always complain about something as soon as you can.
  • If you are not happy with how a court deals with your complaint, you can go to other organisations such as the Ombudsman.
  • You may be able to get help with making a complaint about the court.
  • If you want to challenge the outcome of your court case. This is called an appeal. This is different to making a complaint.

Why might I want to complain?

You can make a complaint if you are unhappy with something to do with your court experience.

You may feel that the:

  • court staff caused a delay or made a mistake,
  • judge did not behave properly towards you, or
  • court made the wrong decision.

There are 4 different complaint processes that you need to follow
depending on what you are unhappy about. The things you might want to
complain about are:

  • court facilities, court services or administrative problems,
  • the behaviour of a judge or magistrate,
  • a court decision or
  • your solicitor.

There is a different process for each of these things. These 4 processes
will be looked at in the information below.

If you would like to complain about your care and treatment in hospital, you can use the NHS complaints procedure.

You can find more information about ‘Complaints: NHS and social care.’ by clicking here.

What information should I write in my complaint?

There’s no right or wrong way to complain. But you might want to think about including the following information.

  • Which court are you complaining about?
  • What happened?
  • How did it affect you?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Was anyone involved?
  • Was there any damage or injury?
  • What would you like to see as an outcome of your complaint?
  • Details of any witnesses.
  • Your case reference number.

Complaints  about court facilities, court services or administration problems

The HM Courts & Tribunal Service complaints procedure covers the court facilities, court services and administrative problems.

This includes complaints about:

  • Toilets
  • Waiting areas
  • Court delays
  • Court mistakes
  • Procedures
  • Staff at court. This doesn’t include the judge or magistrates.
  • Cost of fees

Who do I complain to?

You should complain to the court office. You can do this in person, on the
telephone, in writing or online. If you want to complain online, you will need to use Resolver. Resolver is a free online tool that helps you through the complaints process. The website link for Resolver is below. 

www.resolver.co.uk/hmcts-complaints

What happens after I complain?

The court should look at your complaint and get back to you within 10
working days. The court should explain how they are dealing with your complaint. The outcome of your complaint could mean the following things happen.

  • You get an apology
  • A change to policy or process
  • Disciplinary action for staff involved

What if I am unhappy with the response from the court?

Ask for a review

You can ask the senior manager in the court office to review your complaint if you are not happy with the court response. Or you are not happy with the way your complaint was handled. They should get back to you within 10 working days. The senior manager should let you know:

  • how they have reviewed your complaint,
  • what they are going to do to try to sort your complaint, and
  • who you can contact if you are not happy with their review.

Make an appeal

If you are not happy with the review, you can ask the Customer Investigations Team to look at your complaint. This is called an appeal. The team will look at how the court handled your complaint. And the
decision they made. They should get back to you within 15 working days.

Contact your MP

You can contact your MP if you are not happy with the outcome of your
appeal. Your MP can refer your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to investigate. The PHSO are completely independent from the court. You can’t complain to the PHSO yourself.

You can find out who your local MP through the below website link:

www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

Or you can contact the House of Commons Enquiry Service on 020 7219 4272.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)

The PHSO makes final decisions on complaints about government
organisations.

Telephone: 0345 015 4033 (Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm)

Website: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Complaints about a judge or magistrate

You can complain if you’re unhappy with a judge or magistrate’s:

  • behaviour
  • language, or
  • conduct.

Anna’s story

Anna’s solicitor told the judge about how Anna’s mental health affects her.

Anna finds it difficult to process lots of information at once and communicate with people. Her symptoms are more difficult to deal with in stressful situations.

The judge ignored the information and asked Anna several questions at once. And got angry when she did not answer. 

The judge’s behaviour could be unfair. They could have asked Anna 1 question at a time. And given her time to process the information. This would’ve helped her to answer the questions.

How do I complain about a judge?

You need to complain to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO)
about the following people.

  • Deputy District Judge
  • District Judge
  • High Court Judge
  • Circuit Judge
  • Master
  • Recorder
  • Coroner or Assistant Coroner
  • Lord Justice

Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO)

This is a government body that handles complaints about judges and the
court staff mentioned above.

Telephone: 0207 073 4719

Address: Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, 81-82 Queens Building,

Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL

Email: inbox@jcio.gsi.gov.uk

Website: www.judicialconduct.judiciary.gov.uk/

How do I complain?

You should complain in writing. Include the following things:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • The name of the person you are complaining about
  • Date of the incident you are complaining about
  • Time of where the incident took place
  • Where the incident took place
  • You case number
  • Details of any witnesses
  • Detail of your complaint

What should I write in my complaint?

The JCIO will only investigate your complaint if you give them enough
information. You need to explain:

  • exactly what the judge said or did,
  • the language that was used, and
  • the action or behaviour

This is a bad example:

The judge was rude to me.

This is a good example:

I felt that the judge was rude to me because she said that, ‘people with my mental health diagnosis are overly dramatic and I am no exception.” I
asked the judge to explain what she meant by the comment. She dismissed me by:

  • avoiding my question
  • rolling her eyes
  • sharply inhaling
  • avoiding eye contact with me

What happens when I complain?

The JCIO will:

  • let you know they got your complaint within 2 working days.
  • A caseworker will look at your complaint and aim to get back to you in 15 working days.
  • If they are unable to accept your complaint, they will explain why.
  • They will give you an update on your complaint every 4 weeks.
  • When they have investigated your complaint, they will write to you with the outcome. They will explain the outcome.
  • They will tell you how to contact the Judicial Appointments & Conduct Ombudsman if you think that they have mishandled your complaint.
  • If they are unable to help you, they will try to direct you to other
    organisations that may be able to help.

If they agree with your complaint, they can take disciplinary action against the judge.

This will not change the decision of your court case. If you want to change the outcome of your case, you may be able to appeal.

Is there a time limit for complaining?

You should complain within 3 months of the event happening.

You may be able to complain after this time if you have to have a good reason why you missed the deadline. 

What if I am unhappy with how the JCIO handled my complaint?

You can complain to the Judicial Appointment and Contact Ombudsman
(JACO). You need to make your complaint within 28 days of the final letter that you received from the JCIO.

The JACO don’t comment on the final decision but they can look at the way the JCIO handled your complaint. This can include delay, rudeness, wrong advice, refusing to answer questions or treating you unfairly.

The JACO can:

  • ask the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office to re-investigate your 
    complaint if appropriate
  • ask a panel of people to examine your complaint
  • recommend changes to procedures to try and stop the same issue from happening again
  • advise that compensation should be paid. They may do this if they think
    that you have suffered because of maladministration.

Maladministration means lots of things such as delay, bad procedures, being given misleading advice or not being told about your rights.

You can use the complaints form on the Ombudsman website:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa
ds/attachment_data/file/614216/conduct-complaint-form.pdf

Judicial Appointments & Conduct Ombudsman

Investigates complaints about the JCIO

Telephone: 020 3334 2900

Address: 9th Floor, The Tower, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ

Email: headofoffice@jaco.gsi.gov.uk

Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/judicial-appointmentsand-conduct-ombudsman

How do I complain about a magistrate?

You need to complain to the local Advisory Committee.

How do I find out who my Advisory Committee is?

Your local magistrates’ court can give you the contact details for your
Advisory Committee. Or you can look online. This is the weblink to use:
https://judicialconduct.judiciary.gov.uk/contact-an-advisory-committee/

What happens when I complain?

The Advisory Committee will assess your complaint. If they think you have
a serious complaint about a magistrate’s conduct or behaviour they will investigate your complaint. An example of conduct could be if a magistrate is shouting in court.

The Advisory Committee can take disciplinary action against the magistrate such as suspending them.

If your complaint is not about a magistrate’s conduct or behaviour, they will not be able to deal with your complaint. They will explain this to you. If the Advisory Committee think your complaint is less serious, they may refer it to the Bench Chairman to deal with.

Who is the bench chairman?

The bench chairman is the leader of the magistrates in the local area. The bench chairman will tell you and the Advisory Committee when your complaint has been dealt with. If they agree with your complaint the bench chairman can take action. For example, they might ask the magistrate to change their behaviour in the future.

Is there a time limit for complaining?

You have to complain within 3 months of the incident. The time limit can only be extended if you have a good reason for missing the deadline.

What if I am unhappy with how the Advisory Committee handled my complaint?

You can complain to the Judicial Appointment and Contact Ombudsman.
You have to complain within 28 days of the Advisory Committee answering your complaint.

Complaints about a court decision

You may be unhappy about a judge or magistrate’s decision. You can’t complaint about these decisions. But you can appeal.

You can appeal the following decisions.

  • Your conviction. This is when you have been found guilty of a crime.
  • Your sentence. This is the punishment that you are given for a crime.

It is important to be aware that if your appeal fails:

  • the court can restart your sentence. And
  • make you pay the court costs.

Seek advice from a solicitor before you appeal. Appealing your sentence or conviction can be very costly. A solicitor will tell you if you have a good case.

The Law Society can help you find a solicitor. Their contact details are at the end of this webpage.

How do I appeal against a magistrates’ court decision?

You can appeal against your conviction or sentence, or both, if you pleaded not guilty at your trial.

If you pleaded guilty, you can only appeal against your sentence. If the magistrates’ court heard your case talk to the magistrates’ court. Sometimes a magistrates’ court can change a decision which it has made.

If the court will not change their decision you will need to appeal to the Crown Court. They will decide to hear your appeal or not.

You can download the form from the court service website:

www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/criminal/docs/crimpr-part63-
appealnotice.pdf

You send the form to the magistrates’ court that made the decision.

How do I appeal against a Crown Court decision?

You can appeal against your conviction or sentence or both. You can do this if you pleaded either not guilty or guilty.

If your case was heard in a Crown Court you need to appeal to The Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

You can download the forms from the below website link. There are lots of forms through the below link. The forms that you need will be under the
heading of ‘Part 34 Appeal to the Crown Court.’

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/criminal/forms

The staff at the Court of Appeal can give information on procedures. But
they can’t give legal advice. Or advise if you should ask for an appeal.

Their contact details are below.

Court of Appeal Criminal Division

Telephone: 020 7947 6011

Address: Criminal Appeal Office, Court of Appeal, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Email: criminalappealoffice.generaloffice@hmcts.x.gsi.gov.uk

What is the time limit for appealing?

In a magistrates’ court

You have 21 days from when you were sentenced to appeal a magistrates’ court decision. 

If you miss the deadline, you have to ask the Crown Court for permission before you can appeal. The magistrates’ court where you had your trial will tell you how to do this.

In a Crown Court

You have 28 days to apply for an appeal from:

  • the date you were convicted, if you are appealing against your sentence. Even if you were sentenced at a later date.
  • The date you were sentenced, if you are appealing against your sentence.

You must first apply for permission to appeal. A judge will look at your
application and decide whether to give you permission.

If you apply later, you’ll need to explain why you could not send your application in on time. You may get an extension.

What happens if I have already appealed and I was unsuccessful?

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) may be able to help you.

Criminal Cases Review Commission

The independent public body set up to look into miscarriages of justice.
The Commission looks at whether convictions or sentences should be
referred to a court of appeal.

Telephone: 0121 233 1473

Address: 5 St Philip’s Place, Birmingham, B3 2PW

Email: info@ccrc.x.gsi.gov.uk

Website: www.ccrc.gov.uk

What happens if I change my mind about my appeal?

You can withdraw your appeal at any time before your court date. You need to fill out a ‘notice of abandonment of appeal.’

The below weblink will take you to the form that you need to fill in:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/criminal/docs/october2015/form-acpr-eng.pdf

An appeal hearing can go ahead even if you don’t attend.

You can find out more information about:

  • criminal courts and mental health bey clicking here.
  • Legal advice by clicking here.

How do I complain about my solicitor?

You should raise your concerns with your solicitor. If this does not help, you should follow the firm’s complaints procedure. Your solicitor should
give you a copy of the complaints procedure if you ask to see it.

If you are not happy with the firm’s response to your complaint you can
complain to the Legal Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is independent to the law firm and can investigate complaints about.

Legal Ombudsman

The Legal Ombudsman can investigate your complaint about a solicitor if you have already complained to the solicitor directly and if you are unhappy with their response.

Opening hours are 8.30am to 5.30pm. Monday to Friday

Telephone: 0300 555 0333.

Address: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ

Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk

Can I have help to complain?

A friend or relative can help you to complain.

If you are in prison, you could ask your Personal Officer, another member of prison staff or another inmate for help.

Advocacy

There may be advocacy services that could help you to make a complaint.
Advocacy services are independent to the courts. They should be free to
use.

If you are under a forensic section of the Mental Health Act such as section an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) may be able to
help you. This type of advocate will exist in all areas of England.

If you are not detained under the Mental Health Act you may be able to get
help from a community advocate. They are sometimes called generic
advocates. But they won’t exist in all areas of England.

How do I find an advocacy service?

  • Use an internet search engine. Use search terms like ‘advocacy
    Leicestershire’ or ‘mental health advocacy Devon’.
  • Ask a support worker or key worker, if you have one.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you.
  • Call or e-mail our advice service and we will look for you.

Our contact details are at the bottom of this page.

Member of Parliament (MP)

You could ask your local MP to help you make a complaint.

You can find out who your local MP is by going to the website

http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/

Or you can contact the House of Commons Information Office on 020 7219 4272.

Citizens Advice

Your local Citizen’s Advice may be able to help you complain.

You can find your local office at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ or call 08444 111 444.

 

How do I complain about a relative or friend’s experience?

You can help a relative or friend to complain if they want you to.

You could:

  • Give them information about how the complaints process works
  • Explain to your relative or friend how the complaints process works
  • Help them to write their complaint
  • Find out who to send the complaint to
  • Help to monitor progress of the complaint.

Can I complain on my relative or friend’s behalf?

Your relative or friend should give their consent to say that they are happy
for you to take a complaint forward on their behalf. Get written consent
from them to do this. If you don’t have consent, the office may not accept
your complaint.

You are allowed to make a complaint about something that has affected
you.

 

Useful information

 

Criminal legal aid: means testing

Calculator to help you to work out if you qualify for legal aid.

Website: www.gov.uk/guidance/criminal-legal-aid-means-testing

 

The Law Society

Can help you find a solicitor.

Telephone: 020 7242 1222 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5:30pm)

Email: Online form on website

Website: www.lawsociety.org.uk

 

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) 

Gives information and advice on discrimination and human rights.

Telephone: 0808 800 0082 (Monday-Friday 9am-7pm and Saturday
10am-2pm)

Textphone: 0808 800 0084

Address: FREEPOST EASS HELPLINE FPN6521

Email: Online form on website

Website: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

 

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

A government organisation that can pay money to people who have been
physically or mentally injured because they were the blameless victim of a
violent crime.

Telephone: 0300 003 3601 (Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5pm, except Wednesday 10am – 5pm)

Address: Alexander Bain House, Atlantic Quay, 15 York Street, Glasgow
G2 8JQ, United Kingdom

Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/criminal-injuriescompensation-authority

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