Complaints about court
This page looks at how you can complain about court. It explains when you can complain, who can help you and what you can do if you are still not happy once you have complained. This page only looks at complaints about the crown and magistrates’ courts of the criminal court system in England and Wales.
- 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 are unhappy with how a judge has behaved.
- You can challenge the outcome of your court case. This is called an appeal.
- There are different processes for complaining. The one you need will depend on what you are unhappy with.
- There are some 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.
Why might I want to complain?
Why might I want to complain?
It can be a very stressful experience to be involved in the court system.
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.
You can complain about the court. There are different complaint processes depending on what you are unhappy about.
Below are some of the things you need to include when you complain.
- Which court are you complaining about?
- Where and when were the event(s) you are complaining about?
- Who was involved?
- What was said and done?
- Was there any damage or injury?
- Details of any witnesses
- Your case reference number.
If you are not happy with the service from your solicitor in court, you can complain about this. You may have spent time in hospital because of your mental illness while in the criminal justice system. If you would like to complain about your care and treatment in hospital, you can use the NHS complaints procedure here.
What can I complain about?
You can complain about:
- court facilities, such as toilets, waiting area or smoking area,
- court services,
- administrative problems with court staff, such as delays, mistakes or wrong information,
- the behaviour of a judge or magistrate, or
- the outcome of your court case.
How do I complain about court facilities, court services or administrative problems?
The HM Courts & Tribunal Service complaints procedure covers the services and facilities that courts provide. This includes magistrates’ and crown courts. You can complain about administrative problems with the court staff such as delays, mistakes and wrong information.
Who do I complain to?
You should complain to the court office. You can do this in person, on the telephone or in writing. You can also use the complaints form on the HM Courts website here.
What happens after I complain?
The court should look into your complaint and try to sort it out immediately. If they need to look into it further, they aim to get back to you within 10 working days.
The court should look into all your points and explain what they are doing to make the situation right. They should give you the contact details of someone who can look at your complaint again if you are still unhappy.
What if I am unhappy with the response?
You can write to the senior manager in the court office. The court should have given you their details when they answered your complaint.
You should explain why you are still not happy and ask them to look at it again. This is called a review. They aim to get back to you in 10 working days and should let you know the outcome of the review. This includes what they have done to make the situation right and the details of the team you can contact if you are still not happy.
If you are not happy with the review, you can ask the Customer Service 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.
If you are still not happy, you can ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to investigate. They are completely independent from the court.
A court is a government organisation. The PHSO needs a Member of Parliament (MP) to pass along any complaints about government organisations. You cannot pass your court complaint to the PHSO yourself.
You can find out who your local MP is by going to the website here or 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)
Complaints about a judge or magistrate
How do I complain about the behaviour of a judge or magistrate?
You need to use a different process if you want to complain about how a judge or magistrate has behaved towards you.
Anna’s solicitor told the judge about her mental health and that she finds it difficult to communicate with people, especially in stressful situations. But the judge ignored this and asked her several questions at once. Then they got angry when she did not answer.
The judge’s behaviour could be unfair. They should have asked Anna one question at a time and given her time to answer.
A judge’s behaviour
Who do I complain to?
If you are complaining about a judge, you should contact the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).You should complain in writing and include the name of the judge, the court, the case number and the date of your court hearing. You should also give details of the behaviour you are complaining about.
Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO)
This is a government body that handles complaints about judges.
Telephone: 020 7073 4719
Address: Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, 81-82 Queens Building, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL
What happens when I complain?
The JCIO should let you know they got your complaint within 2 working days. A caseworker will take on your complaint and write to you within 15 working days. They may contact you to ask you for more information. They may decide you don’t have a good reason to complain. If this happens they will let you know that they are not looking into the complaint.
If they can deal with your complaint, the JCIO will look into it. Your caseworker should send you written progress updates every four weeks. If they agree with your complaint, they can take disciplinary action against the judge. This will not change the outcome or any other aspect 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 thing you are complaining about happening. Sometimes you can complain after this but you have to have a good reason.
What if I am unhappy with how the JCIO handled my complaint?
You can complain to the Judicial Appointment and Contact Ombudsman (JACO). They do not comment on the final decision but 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. They may think that the way that the JCIO handled your complaint meant that they might have made the wrong decision. If this happens they can tell the JCIO to look at your complaint again.
When the JCIO tells you it has finished dealing with your complaint, you have 28 days to complain to the JACO. It will only investigate outside 28 days in exceptional circumstances and you would need to give reasons for this.
You can use the complaints form on the Ombudsman website here. Judicial Appointments & Conduct Ombudsman investigates complaints about the JCIO
Telephone: 020 3334 2900
Address: 9.53, 9th Floor, The Tower, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ
A magistrate’s behaviour
If you are complaining about a magistrate’s behaviour, you should contact the local Advisory Committee. Your local magistrates’ court can give you the contact details for your Advisory Committee.
What happens when I complain?
The Advisory Committee will think about your complaint. If they think you have a good reason to complain they will think about how serious the complaint is. If they think it is very serious they will tell a conduct panel to investigate the complaint. The conduct panel can take disciplinary action against the magistrate such as suspending them.
If the Advisory Committee think the complaint is less serious, they can ask the bench chairman to investigate. The bench chairman is the leader of the magistrates in the local area. 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. If you don’t, you need a good reason why or the Advisory Committee will not look into your complaint.
What if I am unhappy with how the Advisory Committee handled my complaint?
You can complain to the Judicial Appointment and Contact Ombudsman. You can find their contact details above. They do not comment on the final decision. But they can look at the way the Advisory Committee handled your complaint. This can include delay, rudeness, bad advice, refusing to answer questions or treating you unfairly.
You can use the complaints form on the Ombudsman website here.
You have to complain within 28 days of the Advisory Committee answering your complaint.
Complain about a decision
How do I complain about a court decision?
You may want to complain about a judge or magistrate’s decision. For example, you may have been found guilty of an offence you feel you did not commit. You may feel your sentence is unfair. If you challenge a judge or magistrate’s decision, this is called an appeal.
If the magistrates’ court heard your case, you would need to fill out a form to ask for the Crown Court to hear your appeal. You can download the form from the court service website here.
You send the form to the magistrates’ court that made the decision.
If the Crown Court heard your case, you need to appeal using the form NG. You can find this form on the court service website here.
You need to send the form to the Criminal Appeal Office. A solicitor can advise you on how to make an appeal. Appealing your sentence or conviction could be very costly, so it is worth seeking legal advice to see if you have a good case. The Law Society can help you find a solicitor. Their contact details are at the end of this page.
Is there a time limit for appealing?
If you want to appeal a conviction in a Crown Court case, you must do so within 28 days of your conviction. You have to do this even if you were sentenced at a later date. If you want to appeal your sentence you have 28 days from the date that you were sentenced.
If you want to appeal the outcome of a magistrates’ court case, you have 21 days from when you were sentenced.
If you have already appealed and were unsuccessful, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) may be able to help you. Their contact details are at the end of this page.
You can find out more about:
Can anyone help me to complain?
A friend or relative could 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.
There may be advocacy services that could help get your voice heard and make a complaint on your behalf. You can search online for a local advocacy service or call our advice service on 0300 5000 927 and we can search for an advocate for you.
You could ask your local MP to help you make a complaint. They could either help you to complete forms or perhaps make a complaint on your behalf. You can find out who your local MP is by going to the website here or contact the House of Commons Information Office on 020 7219 4272.
Your local Citizen’s Advice may be able to help you complain. You can find your local office here or call 08444 111 444.
How do I complain about a relative or friend's experience?
How do I complain about a relative or friend’s experience?
If you are a relative or friend of someone who has had a problem with the court, you can help them to complain. You could help them by finding out about the complaints process and the local contact details. You may help them put the complaint together.
Before you complain on your relative or friend’s behalf, they should agree. They need to write down that they are happy for you to do this. Otherwise, the office may not accept your complaint.
You can find more information about:
- Complaints about the police
- Complaints about prison
- Complaints about probation
- Complaining about the NHS or Social Services
- Police stations – what happens when you are arrested
- Appropriate adult
- Criminal courts and mental health
- Prison – what happens when I am in prison
Civil Legal Advice
Offers free, confidential and independent legal advice for people on a low income in England and Wales.
Telephone: 0845 345 4 345 (Monday –Friday 9am-8pm and Saturday 9am-12:30pm)
The Law Society
Can help you find a solicitor.
Telephone: 020 7320 5650 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5:30pm)
Criminal Cases Review Commission
The independent public body set up to look into cases where someone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has been convicted of a crime they did not commit. 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
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
Gives information and advice on discrimination.
Textphone: 0808 800 0084
Telephone: 0808 800 0082 (Mon-Fri 9am-7pm and Sat 10am-2pm)
Address: FREEPOST EASS HELPLINE FPN6521
Email: Online form here
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
A government organisation that can pay money (compensation) 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)