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Feedback and Complaints guidance

How to provide feedback or make a complaint to the Crown Prosecution Service

May 2013

Introduction

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) aims to provide the highest standards of service and to get things right. However, there will be occasions when we fall short of these standards. The purpose of the Feedback and Complaints Guidance is to outline how to provide feedback or make a complaint on any aspect of our service.

Our Commitment

The role and purpose of the CPS is to bring offenders to justice; help reduce both crime and the fear of crime; promote public confidence and provide effective support to victims and witnesses.

We are committed to developing a culture of excellence by setting clear standards about the service that the public can expect from us and providing the opportunity to tell us whether or not we have met those standards. The way in which we handle complaints is underpinned by the values of the CPS which are:

  • We will be independent and fair
  • We will be honest and open
  • We will treat everyone with respect
  • We will behave professionally and strive for excellence.

We are committed to listening to the public, acknowledging concerns and putting things right where appropriate. The CPS Core Quality Standards (CQS) outlines the quality of service that the public are entitled to expect from the CPS. We are held to account by the delivery of these standards and have a commitment to deal promptly and openly with complaints about our decisions and the service we provide. We are committed to transparency and accountability and have introduced independent scrutiny of our feedback and complaints handling through the Independent Assessor of Complaints (IAC) in order to achieve the highest standards of service.

We will respond to complaints effectively and deal with them sensitively, fairly and thoroughly. We will not treat any member of the public less favourably on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, disability or religion or belief and all complaints will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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What does the policy cover?

The policy applies to feedback and complaints regarding the service provided by the CPS.

Feedback

We encourage members of the public to provide us with feedback on our policies, procedures, services and performance, both positive and negative. We welcome your views on your experience of dealing with us or your opinion on any aspect of our service.

Any member of the public can provide feedback to the CPS and there is no time limit for doing so. All feedback will be recorded and analysed in order to continue to deliver a high standard of service to the public.

Complaints

We consider a complaint to be an expression of dissatisfaction about any aspect of our service by a member of the public or their representative who has been directly involved in the service complained of.

Complaints can be either:

  1. Legal (excluding victim right to review cases). These are complaints relating to legal decisions made by the CPS
  2. Service. These are complaints relating to the way in which we have conducted ourselves. The Independent Assessor of Complaints (IAC) for the CPS will only consider service complaints.

Victims who wish to exercise their right to request a review of decisions not to bring charges, discontinue proceedings or offer no evidence in cases should utilise the Victims' Right to Review Scheme (VRR). Such requests will not be treated as complaints under this policy.

The CPS' complaints procedure is not an avenue for defendants to seek to have the cases against them dropped or to overturn their convictions. If you are a defendant in this situation your complaint will not be considered as part of our complaints procedure. You should seek independent legal advice.

Where a complaint relates to ongoing criminal cases, we may only be able to provide limited information. We reserve the right not to deal with a complaint in relation to an ongoing case if it might prejudice the proceedings.

If you are a member of the public who is unconnected with the matter about which you wish to complain, you are entitled to receive an explanation from the relevant manager responsible for the subject matter of the complaint. Your complaint will not, however, be dealt with through our complaints procedure.

We may decline to deal with: complaints that are abusive; persistent correspondence; or complaints where our formal complaints procedure has been exhausted.

This policy does not apply to complaints or feedback about other partner organisations such as the police, the courts or the judiciary. Complaints and feedback about services provided by other organisations should be directed to them. Contact details for other criminal justice organisations are provided at the end of this guidance.

Early Resolution

Many individuals who are dissatisfied with the service that we have provided will want someone to review their concerns as quickly as possible. The initial step is to contact the local CPS office in order that the complaint might be resolved informally. It may be possible for the cause of the dissatisfaction to be resolved immediately and we will aim to do so by providing an explanation, apology or other appropriate outcome.

If we are unable to resolve your concerns satisfactorily then you may wish to pursue a formal complaint following the outlined procedure.

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Feedback Procedure

How do I provide feedback?

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) encourages members of the public to provide us with both positive and negative feedback on our policies, procedures, services and performance. We welcome your views on your experience of dealing with us or your opinion on any of our services.

Any member of the public can provide feedback to the CPS and there is no time limit for providing feedback to us. All feedback received will be logged and recorded, however we will not enter into correspondence with those who have provided feedback.

If you would like to provide feedback to us, you can do so in the following ways:

  • Website - You can provide feedback through our website via the online Feedback and Complaints form.
  • Email - The Feedback and Complaints Form can be downloaded from our website and sent via email or post to the relevant CPS office. Email addresses for all CPS offices are available on our website.
  • Post - Feedback can be provided in writing or by completion of the Feedback and Complaints Form which can be downloaded from our website. Postal addresses for all regional CPS offices are available on our website.
  • Telephone - Feedback can be provided by telephone. Telephone numbers of all CPS offices are available on our website.

How will my feedback be used?

All feedback received from members of the public will be formally recorded and will be analysed in order to identify improvements which can made to develop our services so that they continue to meet the needs of the public. The CPS is committed to delivering excellent service standards and will utilise public feedback to identify and develop good practice.

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Complaints procedure

Who can make a complaint?

Any member of the public who has had direct contact with the CPS can make a complaint.

A complaint can be made directly by the individual concerned or on their behalf by a nominated representative such as a family member or friend, support group, solicitor or other professional. If you nominate a representative to complain on your behalf, you will need to give permission in writing for the representative to act for you. We will liaise with the representative and treat them as if they are the complainant.

How can I make a complaint?

Complaints about the CPS can be made in the following ways:

  • Website - You may make a complaint through our website via the online Feedback and Complaints form.
  • Email - Complaints can be sent via email to the relevant CPS office. Email addresses for all CPS offices are available on our website.
  • Post - You may make a complaint in writing or by completion of the Feedback and Complaints form which can be downloaded from our website. Postal addresses for all regional CPS offices are available on our website.
  • Telephone - Please contact the local CPS office where your complaint originates. Telephone numbers of all CPS offices are available on our website. Whilst we will try to resolve your complaint by telephone, we may ask you to put your complaint in writing (for example if we are unable to clarify the nature of your complaint over the telephone or if your complaint is complex).

All complaints referred to the Independent Assessor at Stage Three of the complaints procedure must be provided in writing either by email or post.

Accessibility

We aim to ensure that all members of the public should find it easy to make a complaint or provide feedback on our service. If you are unable to use any of the outlined options we will be happy to receive it in an alternative format.

What information will I need to provide?

To ensure that your complaint can be dealt with quickly and efficiently, you should provide the following information:

  • Full name
  • Postal address
  • Email address
  • Contact details (including the detail of your nominated representative, where applicable)
  • Full details of the complaint and whether you are a victim, witness or other complainant
  • Preferred method of contact(letter, email, telephone)

If your complaint relates to a case, you should also include:

  • the name(s) of the defendant(s) (Please note that we require the name(s) of the defendant(s) in order to identify a case)
  • the nature and date(s) of any offence(s)
  • the place where the offence(s) occurred
  • the police force that investigated the offence(s), and
  • the court(s) that dealt with the case (if the case reached court).

If you have already tried to resolve your concerns informally with the CPS you should provide details of the CPS member of staff who assisted you.

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How long do I have to make a complaint?

Complaints will only be considered if they are received within six months of the matter complained of. If your complaint is not made within this time limit, we will not examine your complaint.

If you remain dissatisfied following a reply to your complaint you may wish to escalate your complaint to the next stage. This should be done within one month of the date of receipt. Complaints received outside of this timescale will not be considered.

How will my complaint be handled and what will the outcome be?

We will deal with all complaints sensitively, fairly and confidentially and will inform you whether your complaint has been upheld, either wholly or in part, or not upheld.

If your complaint is justified we will apologise, try, wherever to put the matter right, if possible, and take steps to ensure that it does not happen again.

When will I receive a response to my complaint?

  • We will acknowledge your complaint within three working days of receipt
  • We will reply to complaints at Stage One and Two within 20 working days of receipt
  • The Independent Assessor of Complaints will respond to complaints within 40 working days of receipt

If it is not possible to provide a response within these timescales, we will contact you to explain why there is a delay and the date by which we hope to provide a response.

What are the stages in the complaint procedure?

Stage one

Complaints made at Stage One of the procedure will be formally recorded and managed by the local CPS office where the complaint originated. The complaint will be directed to the relevant manager responsible for the subject matter of the complaint. They will look into your complaint and reply to you within 20 working days. Where it is not possible to complete the investigation and provide a response within that timeframe we will write to you providing the date by which we hope to reply.

Stage two

If you remain dissatisfied with the response received at Stage One you may refer your complaint to the relevant Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP) or Casework Division Director (CDD). You should provide details of why you remain dissatisfied and the CCP or CCD will review your complaint and provide a response within 20 working days. Where it is not possible to complete the investigation and provide a response within that timeframe we will write to you providing the date by which we hope to reply.

This will be the end of the process for complaints relating to legal decisions.

Stage three - independent review

If your complaint refers to the way in which we have conducted ourselves (a service complaint) and you remain dissatisfied following Stages One and Two of the complaints procedure you can refer your complaint to the Independent Assessor of Complaints (IAC) for review. The IAC operates independently from the CPS and is responsible for handling and investigating complaints from members of the public in relation to the quality of the service provided by the CPS and its adherence to its published complaints procedure.

The IAC will acknowledge receipt of your complaint and will provide a full response within 40 days of receipt. If it is not possible to complete the investigation and reply within that the time, the IAC will contact you to explain why there is a delay and provide a date by which he hopes to provide a response.

Stephen Shaw CBE
Independent Assessor of Complaints for the CPS
c/o Rose Court,
2 Southwark Bridge
London, SE1 9HS
Email address: IAComplaints@cps.gsi.gov.uk
Fax: 020 357 0567

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Contact details

CPS contacts

The contact details for all CPS Area offices and Casework Divisions can be found on our website at www.cps.gov.uk

CPS Public Accountability and Inclusion Directorate
CPS Public Enquiries Helpdesk
Tel: 020 3357 0899 (10am – 3pm, Monday to Friday)
Email: enquiries@cps.gov.uk

Other contacts

The Attorney General's Office
Tel: 020 7271 2492
Email: correspondence@attorneygeneral.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk

The Home Office
Tel: 020 7035 4848
Email: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office

Independent Police Complaints Commission
Tel: 0300 020 0096
Email: enquiries@ipcc.gov.uk
Website: www.ipcc.gov.uk

The Ministry of Justice
Tel: 020 3334 3555
Email: general.queries@justice.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice

Victim Support
Tel: 0845 30 30 900
Email: supportline@victimsupport.org.uk
Website: www.victimsupport.org.uk

Citizens Advice Bureau
Find your local CAB: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Index/getadvice
Website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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