LEVERETS’ COMPLAINTS POLICY AND PROCEDURE

Table of Contents

  1. What is a complaint?
  2. Our standards for handling complaints
  3. Confidentiality
  4. How to complain to us
  5. How we will respond to your complaint
  6. If you are still dissatisfied
  7. Timescales
  8. Remedies
  9. Compensation
  10. Vexatious and repetitive complaints, unreasonable or abusive behaviour
  11. Recording complaints
  12. Contacting us
  13. Reasonable adjustments and alternative formats

Leverets is committed to providing a high quality service to everyone with whom we deal. In order to do this we need you to comment on our service, and tell us when we get things wrong. We want to help you resolve any complaint as quickly as possible.

We treat any expression of dissatisfaction with our service which calls for a response as a complaint.

We listen to your complaints, treat them seriously, act fairly upon them and learn from your experience so that we can improve our service.

1. What is a complaint?

We treat any expression of dissatisfaction with our service which calls for a response as a complaint, whether justified, or not.

Our complaints policy covers:

  • the standard of service you should expect from us
  • the behaviour of our staff in delivering that service
  • any action, or lack of action, by our staff or others engaged on Leverets’ business.

Our complaints policy does not cover:

  • matters of our professional judgment when acting on your behalf
  • matters that have already been fully investigated through this complaints procedure
  • anonymous complaints
  • complaints from people or parties with whom we are dealing because we act for people or parties as their opponents in a dispute that is subject to adversarial litigation, threatened adversarial litigation, or other form of dispute resolution process.

We refer to these types of comments or complaints as “non-service complaints” and may be a matter that is best dealt with by a reference to our professional indemnity insurer, or to our professional regulatory body, the Bar Standards Board.

2. Our standards for handling complaints

We can receive complaints by letter or email, or alternatively if required by virtue of reasonable adjustments. We treat all complaints seriously.

  • You can expect to be treated with courtesy, respect and fairness at all times. We expect that you will also treat our staff dealing with your complaint with the same courtesy, respect and fairness.
  • We will deal with your service complaint promptly.
  • We will not treat you less favourably than anyone else because of your:
    • sex or legal marital or same-sex partnership status: this includes family status, responsibility for dependants, and gender (including gender reassignment, whether proposed, commenced or completed)
    • sexual orientation
    • colour or race: this includes ethnic or national origin or nationality
    • disability
    • religious or political beliefs, or trade union affiliation
    • any other unjustifiable factors, for example language difficulties, age, pregnancy and maternity

3. Confidentiality

All complaints received will be dealt with confidentially and in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679), subject to the need to disclose information as required by statutory authorities, and/or as a result of statutory, legal or parliamentary obligations placed on the Commission.

4. How to complain to us

If you wish to make a complaint, you can do so by email or letter.

If you are disabled, and need a reasonable adjustment to ensure you can register your complaint, you can contact us alternatively by:

  • telephone
  • asking a member of staff, or 3rd party, to help you in writing out your complaint

Our contact details are in the Contacting Us section below. If you require different adjustments, let us know and we will try and put those arrangements in place where we can.

5. How we will respond to your complaint

We have a two-stage service complaints handling procedure. At each stage it will help us to resolve your complaint quickly if you can give us as much clarity and detail as possible, including providing any documents and correspondence and stating that you are making a complaint. If we do not have all the details required to deal with the complaint, we may contact you and ask you for further information.

Stage 1

This is the first opportunity for us to resolve your dissatisfaction. We expect the majority of complaints to be resolved at this stage. On receipt of your complaint we will contact the person/people who dealt with your case, or matter, and ask them to respond to your complaint. This includes any service complaints about our former services where we still retain relevant information.

Stage 2

If you are dissatisfied with the response at Stage 1, you may request a review. This will be carried out by the Head of Legal Practice to whom any Stage 2 complaint should be addressed.

6. If you are still dissatisfied

If having followed the two internal stages of our service complaints procedure you remain dissatisfied, you can ask to have your complaint reviewed by the Legal Ombudsman’s service or referred to the Bar Council of England and Wales.

For further details about how to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, including guidance about the new scheme rules that came into effect in 2018, please contact the Legal Ombudsman directly at:

Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806
Wolverhampton
WV1 9WJ

Email: enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

Phone: 0300 555 0333

Website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk

A guide to the new scheme rules that came into effect in 2018 can also be found on the Legal Ombudsman’s website at:http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/downloads/documents/publications/Scheme-Rules.pdf 

7. Timescales

Our timescales for handling a complaint comply with guidance issued by the Public and Health Services Ombudsman.

Stage 1

We will:

  • acknowledge receipt of a written complaint within 10 working days
  • aim to provide a fully reply within 40 working days;

Stage 2

We will:

  • acknowledge receipt of a written complaint within 10 working days;
  • aim to provide a fully reply within 40 working days;

Extending time limits

We aim to complete our investigation into all complaints received about our service within the timescales set out above. However, in a limited number of cases – for example, if a complaint is very complex or requires further breakdown, it may be necessary to extend the time limit to ensure we have all the information necessary to deal with it. If this is the case we will keep you informed of progress with the investigation, the reasons for the delay, and inform you of next steps.

8. Remedies

When we get things wrong we will act to:

  • accept responsibility and apologise
  • explain what went wrong and why, and
  • put things right by making any changes required
  • learn lessons from mistakes and change policies and practices where proportionate and sensible to do so

The action we take to put matters right (i.e. redress) in response to a service complaint can include any combination of the remedies set out in the list below. The general principle we follow is that complainants should, so far as possible, be put in the position they would have been in, had things not gone wrong.

The remedy applied needs to be proportionate and appropriate to the failure in service, and take into account what redress people seek when they complain. An apology is generally the most appropriate action, but other action may also be necessary in some circumstances.

List of remedies

  • A full apology, explaining what happened and/or what went wrong (an apology is not an acceptance of liability)
  • Remedial action, which may include reviewing or changing a decision on the service given to an individual complainant
  • Provide the service required in first instance (immediately, if appropriate)
  • Putting things right (for example a change of procedure to prevent future difficulties of a similar kind, either for the complainant or others)
  • Training or supervising staff; or a combination of both
  • Financial compensation

9. Compensation

In the majority of cases, remedies other than financial compensation will satisfy the complainant. Financial compensation is a final option, and will only apply in cases where the loss or suffering is considered to warrant such a payment i.e. in cases of actual direct or indirect financial loss.

Where it is decided, following investigation of a complaint, that a complainant has suffered an injustice and or hardship resulting in direct or indirect financial loss due to maladministration, we will determine whether compensation is an appropriate remedy by looking at all the evidence, including how much the complainant can demonstrate they have lost, or what extra costs they have incurred as a result of our maladministration.

The reason for our decision will be recorded by the decision maker and included in our response.

10. Vexatious Complaints, Unreasonable and Abusive Behaviour Policy

1. Vexatious or repetitive complaints

We sometimes receive complaints which can be deemed ‘vexatious’ or ‘repetitive’. Some of these complaints can be costly to handle; or responding to them may be a disproportionate use of our time.

Deciding whether a complaint is vexatious requires us in each case to take into account the context and history of the complaint. We will consider whether the complaint is likely to cause unjustified distress, disruption or irritation. In particular, we will consider the following issues:

  • Could the complaint fairly be seen as obsessive?
  • Is the complaint harassing or causing distress to staff?
  • Does the complaint appear to be designed to cause disruption or annoyance?
  • Does the complaint lack any serious purpose or value?

The concern we will address is whether a complaint is vexatious in terms of the effect of the request on us and not whether the applicant is personally vexatious.

By its ordinary meaning, the term ‘vexatious’ refers to activity that “is likely to cause distress or irritation, literally to vex a person to whom it is directed”.

For a complaint to be vexatious, we will consider whether there is a proper or justified cause for it. We will not only examine the complaint itself, but also its context and history. That context may include other complaints made by the applicant to us (whether complied with or refused), the number and subject matter of the complaints, as well as the history of other dealings between the complainant and ourselves. The effect a complaint will have may be determined as much, or indeed more, by that context as by the complaint itself.

We will take into consideration the following factors (which are not an exhaustive list) when determining whether a complaint is vexatious:

  • where the complaint requests information which has already been provided
  • where the nature and extent of the complainant’s correspondence with us suggests an obsessive approach to disclosure
  • where the tone adopted in correspondence by the complainant is confrontational and/or haranguing and demonstrates that the purpose is to argue and not really to obtain information
  • where the correspondence could reasonably be expected to have a negative effect on the health and well-being of our staff
  • where the complaint, viewed as a whole, appears to be intended simply to re-open issues which have been disputed several times before, and is, in effect, the pursuit of a complaint by alternative means
  • where responding to the complaint would likely entail substantial and disproportionate financial and administrative burdens for us
  • where it is not a one-off complaint, but a case of the same complaints having been made repeatedly, or where on repetition, the particulars of the complaints have been varied making it difficult to know exactly what the complainant is seeking and making it less likely that the request can be satisfied

Complaints can sometimes become a vehicle for individuals to try to reopen previous issues. Continued complaints after the underlying complaint has been addressed, go beyond the reasonable pursuit of resolution.

2. Unreasonable Behaviour

Our staff have the right to undertake their work free from abuse, threats and harassment, or vexatious and repetitive complaints. We expect our staff to be treated with courtesy and respect. We have a duty to protect the welfare and safety of staff and considers that violence, threats or abuse towards staff is unacceptable. Staff are also expected to treat complainants with courtesy, respect and fairness.

Complainants who harass, or have been abusive, aggressive or threatening on one or more occasions towards our staff – or their families or associates – directly or indirectly, will be considered unreasonable.

Any threats or acts of violence will cause direct contact with the complainant to be discontinued. Violence includes behaviour or language (written, oral, or in tone or otherwise) that may cause staff to feel afraid, threatened or abused. Examples of unacceptable behaviour includes but not exclusively threats, verbal abuse, derogatory remarks, rudeness, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, disablist or other harassment based on personal characteristic or obscene remarks, repeatedly demanding disciplinary action be taken against staff, and where complainants are known to have recorded meetings or telephone conversations without consent.

We also consider that inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated allegations can amount to abusive behaviour.

Furthermore, our staff will bring to an end phone calls if the caller is considered aggressive, abusive or threatening. The complainant will first be told that we consider their language offensive or their behaviour unacceptable, and will be asked to stop using such language or behaviour.

Where complaints are deemed vexatious, the complainant will be notified in writing that no further correspondence will be entered into on the matter in question.

Where unreasonable or abusive behaviour is found, the complainant will be notified in writing that no further contact will be undertaken.

If you disagree with a decision made by the Commission to regard your behaviour as unreasonable, you can challenge it. Please refer to our Complaints Policy.

All incidents of harassment or aggression will be documented and referred to senior staff. In appropriate circumstances these matters may be referred to the police and legal action may be taken against the complainant, if necessary, without prior warning.

11. Recording complaints

Complaint details, outcomes and actions taken are recorded by us and used for service improvement. We record all complaints we receive and collate data from them to help us understand what types of problems are most prevalent, and how well we are doing to resolve them.

We value your feedback and expect to use it to help us to:

  • get things right in the future if we have not done so already
  • become more customer focused
  • be more open and accountable
  • act fairly and proportionately
  • seek continuous improvement

We will handle your information so that it is only processed and retained appropriately and legally, in line with data protection legislation.

12. Contacting us

All complaints and requests for review under our complaints procedure should be sent as follows:

By post:

Rupert Butler
Barrister & Head of Legal Practice
Leverets
44a High Street
Sevenoaks
Kent
TN13 1JG

By email:                      rupert.butler@leveretsgroup.co.uk

If you are unable to contact us in writing as above, and require a reasonable adjustment because you are a disabled person, you may contact us as follows:

Telephone:                   01732 455505

13. Reasonable adjustments and alternative formats

Leverets is committed to equal opportunities and our aim is to make our corporate complaints policy easy to use and accessible to all of our customers. We will take reasonable steps to accommodate any reasonable adjustments you may have, to enable you to access this policy or receive responses to complaints in other formats, and provide such assistance as you may reasonably require.