Complaints Procedure

Chambers Complaints Procedure

The Chambers Complains Procedure provides for the resolution of complaints made externally to Chambers.

1. The types of complaints with which this procedure is intended to deal include:

• Complaints by professional clients

• Complaints by lay clients

2. Complaints must be raised within a period of three months from the date of the events giving rise to the grievance. The management committee may in its absolute discretion extend that period where there are exceptional circumstances giving rise to the delay.

Informal Resolution – Stage 1

3. Upon a complaint being received it shall be brought to the attention of a member of the Management Committee or, where appropriate, the Senior Clerk. The complainant shall then be contacted by a member of the management committee, or such other person delegated to contact the complainant e.g. the senior clerk or a member of the clerking team, to discuss the complaint.

4. If the complainant consents at that stage then the person complained of may be contacted by the Management Committee member and/or Senior Clerk to seek informal resolution.

5. A record is to be kept of all complaints, meetings held and any resolution.

Panel Resolution – Stage 2

6. If the complaint cannot be resolved informally or the complainant wishes to seek formal resolution, the complainant shall be invited to submit a written complaint to the Management Committee who will convene a panel to hear the complaint.

7. The hearing panel shall consist of at least three members of the management committee, including at least two directors of Dolphin Riders Ltd.

8. The complaint will normally be disclosed to the person complained of, unless on inspection it is clearly without merit or other exceptional circumstances apply.

9. The panel will convene in private in the first instance to receive a report from the member (or person delegated) about the informal resolution stage. Unless the complaint is dismissed as being clearly without merit, the panel will call a meeting at which

a) The complainant

b) The person complained of and

c) Any other relevant person, including the senior clerk, may be invited to attend.

10. The complainant and the personal complained of shall be entitled to be accompanied to the meeting by a friend or colleague.

11. A record shall be kept of all such meetings.

12. No meeting shall proceed in the absence of the complainant or person complained of unless they have indicated in writing in advance their intention not to attend or have refused or declined to attend on at least on previous occasion.

13. The Panel having heard such evidence and determined the facts shall either:

a) Uphold the complaint (in whole or in part) and, where appropriate, offer any formal apology or statement on behalf of chambers

b) Dismiss the complaint

c) Refer the complaint to an external body e.g. the BSB

d) Take any other steps thought appropriate.

14. NB: Please see the Code of Conduct (rules C66, C68, C95-99) for the circumstances in which the disciplinary panel is likely to refer a member of chambers to the BSB. This is broadly where the panel has material before it which as it stands establishes a reasonably credible case of serious misconduct.

15. The resolution of the complaint shall be put in writing to the complainant (copied to their senior partner or manager where appropriate) and to the person complained of.

16. Employees: Where the person complained of is an employee of Dolphin Riders Ltd and the complaint, if upheld, may result in disciplinary action being taken against him/her, the subject of the complaint shall also be entitled to be accompanied to the meeting by a member of chambers, a fellow employee or, in exceptional circumstances and with the agreement of the panel, a friend or colleague from outside chambers. Any procedure followed in these circumstances by the complaints panel must be accordance with Chambers’ disciplinary procedures for employees.

17. Either the complainant or the person complained of (and any person accompanying them) may be excluded from any part of the meeting at the absolute discretion of the panel, subject to the interests of fairness.

Appeal – Stage 3

18. If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the formal procedure and wishes to appeal, he/she must do so in writing within 7 days of being informed in writing of the outcome of stage 2, setting out why he/she is unsatisfied with the outcome.

19. The appeal shall be heard by the Head of Chambers and at least one director of Dolphin Riders Ltd not previously involved in the stage 2 procedure. They shall be provided with all records relating to the complaint and may also receive an oral report from any member of the panel.

20. A meeting shall be called to consider the appeal. The appeal shall be by way of review, not a full rehearing of the complaint.

21. Both the complainant and the person complained of shall have the right to attend the meeting in the same terms as paragraphs 10 and 16 above but either may be excluded from such parts as, in the absolute discretion of the Head of Chambers, is thought appropriate.

22. No meeting shall proceed in the absence of the complainant or person complained of unless they have indicated in writing in advance their intention not to attend or have refused or declined to attend on at least one previous occasion.

23. The appeal panel shall on hearing the appeal either allow the appeal (in whole or in part) or dismiss the appeal and in doing so may also take any of the steps set out in paragraph 13

24. The outcome of the appeal shall be put in writing to the complainant and the person complained of.

25. Where a possible outcome of the appeal is a finding of misconduct or gross misconduct by an employee of Dolphin Riders Chambers, the appeal procedure must comply with Chambers’ disciplinary policy for employees.

26. None of the above procedure is intended to act as a bar to the complainant making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman or the Bar Standards Board. If such a complaint is made it may be appropriate to suspend any internal procedure of Chambers.