Complaints policy and procedure for Communicourt Accredited Intermediaries

  1. Introduction

The Communicourt Quality Assurance Board (CQAB) welcomes feedback on the service that Communicourt Accredited Intermediaries provide.

Complaints concerning significant professional misconduct or incompetence of a Communicourt Accredited Intermediary are likely to be resolved through the formal complaint procedure. Other complaints, not relating to matters of professional conduct, can be handled through informal means. The CQAB reserves the right to determine the appropriate route for each complaint.

This complaints policy and procedure sets out how all complaints, both informal and formal, are to be handled.

A complaint may be brought for a number of reasons, including professional misconduct or deficient performance. The Communicourt Intermediary Codes of Practice and Ethics refer to the conduct and standards expected of Accredited Intermediaries operating through Communicourt.

The CQAB will not investigate any complaint made against a person(s) who is not an Accredited Intermediary.

If the complaint concerns an issue for which other procedures exist (for example if it warrants a police investigation) then it will be dealt with under those procedures rather than as a complaint. The CQAB reserves the right to report the complaint to a relevant professional body and suspend these procedures pending a resolution of the issue by that professional body.

All complaints should, whether formal or informal, be reported to CQAB within 30 days of the incident taking place. However, under exceptional circumstances (for instance where a complaint could not be brought within this timeframe for reasons of legal or other proceedings) these will be considered.

  1. Informal complaints

Many concerns can be dealt with satisfactorily without the need to resort to the formal procedure. If the complaint relates to an issue other than the significant professional misconduct or incompetence of an Accredited Intermediary, it can be the subject of an informal complaint. An informal complaint can be made either in verbal or written form and an informal meeting may be arranged to discuss the matter and seek a satisfactory resolution.

All informal complaints should be addressed to the CQAB at:

William Scrimshire
Communicourt Ltd
210-222 Hagley Road West
B68 0NP

The CQAB will acknowledge its receipt of an informal complaint within 2 working days of it being received. Should the complaint be about a general matter, the CQAB may be able to respond immediately.

Most informal complaints should be subsequently resolved within 3 working days of the complaint being acknowledged. However, should this informal procedure require more time, the CQAB will inform the complainant of this in writing as soon as this is known.

Should these informal procedures appear unlikely to resolve the issue, either the complainant or the CQAB may initiate a move to the formal complaints procedure.

  1. Formal complaints

All formal complaints should addressed in writing (if necessary, on behalf of the Complainant) to:

Secretary of the CQAB
Communicourt Ltd,
210-222 Hagley Road West,
B68 0NP

The complainant should set out the precise nature of the complaint in writing and include the name of the Accredited Intermediary, their own name and full contact details. This should be emailed to the CQAB marked private and confidential. The complainant should keep a copy of this and all other relevant correspondence.

The CQAB will acknowledge receipt of a formal complaint within 2 working days of it being received. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted or acknowledged.

The person(s) to which the formal complaint refers will be served with a copy of the written complaint within 3 working days of its receipt by the CQAB or the Chair. As appropriate, address/contact details for the complainant will be removed from this copy.

  1. Investigation

For complaints that relate to specific actions or an issue relating to the professional conduct or competence of an Accredited Intermediary, there is likely to be a need for further investigation in order to establish the facts. The CQAB will decide whether an investigation is appropriate and what form this should take, but the following process should be followed in most cases:

A Complaint Investigator will be appointed by the CQAB as soon as possible but no later than 10 working days of the complaint being acknowledged. The Complaint Investigator must be someone that is completely unconnected to the issue relating to the complaint. He/she will be suitably qualified to investigate a complaint and will possess a thorough knowledge of the role of an intermediary.

Stage 1 – Complaint Verification

The Complaint Investigator will seek to establish the nature of the complaint and the background to it. This must involve contact with the parties involved to assess and ascertain whether the complaint can be resolved informally. If that is the case, the Complaint Investigator will propose an appropriate resolution that is acceptable to both parties.

Stage 2 – Full Investigation

If the complaint cannot be resolved through an informal process it will then proceed to be investigated through the full complaints procedure.

In instances where multiple, separate complaints are received against an Accredited Intermediary, the respective Complaint Investigators are to be made aware of these cases.

In instances where previous complaints against an Accredited Intermediary have been received and investigated by a Complaint Investigator, and a new complaint is received against that individual, the subsequent Complaint Investigator should be made aware of these and have sight of the reports written as a course of those investigations.

Complaints received against an Accredited Intermediary are to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis depending on their nature, and suspension of the Intermediary concerned would be considered on an on-going basis as the investigation proceeds. If, at any point during the investigation, the Complaint Investigator felt that the interests of defendants would not be served by the Accredited Intermediary being allowed to continue to practice then the Complaint Investigator would recommend to the CQAB that the Accredited Intermediary be suspended. The CQAB decision is final on this matter and suspension may be lifted pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Complaint Investigator should complete their investigation within 25 working days of being appointed, unless there are circumstances which require a longer period of investigation.

The complainant will be informed in writing should more time be required and an indication of the likely additional time needed will also be communicated.

The Complaint Investigator will prepare a report on the investigation and will make a recommendation(s) to an appointed Complaints Panel of three members of the CQAB as to whether the complaint should be upheld or not.
The role of the Complaints Panel is:

• In the event that the formal complaint follows an earlier informal complaint, decide whether to uphold the original informal response
• Decide whether remedial action is necessary to resolve the issue, and if so what action is appropriate (see Section 5)
• Terminate the complaints procedure if it appears to be without merit.

The Complaint Investigator must disclose in their report, all the information on which they have relied in carrying out their investigation. Any disclosure of the content of documents used or obtained in the course of the investigation is at the discretion of the Complaint Investigator.

The CQAB will subsequently send a copy of the report to all parties, within 3 working days of the completion of the investigation. Such reports are not intended for publication.

  1. Sanctions

If the Complaints Panel considers that formal action is necessary to resolve the issue, they may decide on one or more of the following options in relation to the Accredited Intermediary concerned. The options are not necessarily sequential – for example, an Accredited Intermediary may simply be given a final warning or lose accreditation if the circumstances warrant it.

Formal warning – whereby the Accredited Intermediary receives a warning about their future conduct which is placed on their record indefinitely and they are advised of appropriate remedial action(s) required to be undertaken.

These remedial actions, either individually or in combination, may include the following:
• Suspension from the Intermediary Accreditation register – the Accredited Intermediary is temporarily suspended from taking on referrals (possibly pending the completion of other remedial activity) for a period determined by the CQAB. Any on-going cases in which the Accredited Intermediary is involved are to be re-allocated to another Accredited Intermediary.
• Additional/refresher training to be undertaken – the Accredited Intermediary is required to undertake relevant training or continuing professional development activity that is linked to any area of weakness that has been identified by the complaint investigation.
• Supervision from a nominated QAB member or practising Accredited Intermediary.
• Mentoring from a nominated QAB member or practising Accredited Intermediary.

If for any reason an Accredited Intermediary has previously received a formal warning, should the Complaints Panel consider that action is necessary to resolve the issue they must consider issuing a final warning with remedial actions or removing the Accredited Intermediary from the Accredited Intermediary Register.

Final warning – which can be issued to the Accredited Intermediary automatically depending on the nature of the complaint.

Removal from the Intermediary Register – the Accredited Intermediary is permanently removed from the Accredited Intermediary Register, for example, gross misconduct.

When recommended, it is the Accredited Intermediary’s duty to inform their professional organisation(s) within 15 working days and the CQAB will require proof that this has been done within the same period of time. If required, the Complaint Investigator or the Complaints Panel may consider making recommendations to the relevant disciplinary body of parties involved in the investigation of a complaint against an Accredited Intermediary.

  1. Appeals

Any party may appeal by setting out the reasons why they are not satisfied with either the investigation or the decision of the Complaints Panel and this must be made within 10 working days of the Complaints Panel’s decision. This notice of appeal must be made in writing and addressed to the Chair of the CQAB at:

Chair of CQAB
Communicourt Ltd,
210-222 Hagley Road West,
B68 0NP

The Chair of the CQAB will acknowledge the receipt of an appeal within 3 working days.

The Chair of the CQAB will consider the notice of appeal and determine whether there are good grounds for believing either that the matter has not been investigated in a fair and reasonable manner by the Complaint Investigator or that the decision(s) of the Complaints Panel is unreasonable in the light of all the circumstances of the complaint.

If the Chair considers that there are such grounds, an Appeal Complaints Panel will be appointed within 5 working days of the receipt of the appeal being acknowledged. The members of the Appeal Complaints Panel must not have been members of the original Complaints Panel.

All parties will be subsequently informed of the appointment of an Appeal Complaints Panel within 2 working days of it being appointed.

The Appeal Complaints Panel will comprise 3 members and, wherever practicable, will include a member with a working knowledge of law and the criminal justice system. The decision of the Chair of the CQAB on membership of the Appeal Complaints Panel will be final.

The Appeal Complaints Panel will meet and will consider the complaint, the report on the investigation of the complaint from the Complaint Investigator and the complaints Panel decision(s). The Appeal Complaints Panel may consider such representations from others as it deems appropriate, and, in particular, may receive representations in person or in writing from any person regarding the subject of the complaint.

Any party may request to make an oral representation to the Appeal Complaints Panel by informing the CQAB of this within 5 working days of being notified that the Appeal Complaints Panel has been appointed. In such circumstances, any party may arrange for a professional representative to accompany them to the meeting of the Appeal Complaints Panel.

In so far as is possible, the Appeal Complaints Panel will meet within 10 working days of all parties being informed of its appointment. The Appeal Complaints Panel will have before it all of the information considered by the Complaints Investigator and Complaints Panel.

Having considered the matter, they may:

• Dismiss an appeal (with or without varying the remedial action thought to be necessary to resolve the issue)
• ssue a new report (with or without varying the remedial action thought to be necessary to resolve the issue
• Terminate the complaints procedure by dismissing the complaint

The Appeal Complaints Panel’s action will be communicated to all parties within 4 working days of it meeting and this will be confidential to the complainant and the CQAB.

At the stage at which the Appeal Complaints Panel’s decision has been communicated to all parties, the issue will be considered closed and no further consideration of the complaint will follow.