Quarterly Complaints Bulletin
January - March 2010

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of complaints recorded across the Court Service during the quarter Jan – Mar 2010. For comparison purposes, data from the previous 12 months is also provided.

Summary

A total of 57 complaints were recorded however 4 relating to judicial decisions [the Court Service cannot deal with complaints against judicial decisions] and 6 relating to other organisations fall outside the scope of this report.

Table 1 below illustrates that 47 complaints were received during this quarter. The number of complaints received has decreased by 24% when compared with quarter ending Dec 09 [62] and has decreased by 6% when compared with the same quarter last year [50].

Table 1: Total Complaints Received

Quarter Total Number of Complaints
Jan - Mar 09  50
Apr - Jun 09  49
July - Sept 09  52
Oct - Dec 09  62
Jan - Mar 10  47

Following investigation 32 complaints (68%) were upheld*.

Breakdown by venue

A breakdown of the complaints recorded by venue is illustrated in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Breakdown of complaints received by venue

Location  Jan –Mar 09  Apr- Jun  09 Jul - Sep 09  Oct - Dec 09  Jan –Mar 10  Total
Antrim  0  0  0  1  0  1
Armagh  1  0  3  0  0  4
Ballymena  0  0  0  0  0  0
Bangor  3  0  8  4  1  16
Coleraine  0  0  0  0  1  1
Craigavon  0  0  4  0  1  5
Downpatrick  0  1  2  4  4  11
Dungannon  0  0  0  1  2  3
Enniskillen  0  0  0  0  1  1
Laganside Courts  10  6  3  4  3  26
Larne  0  0  0 0  0  0
Limavady  0  0  0  0  0  0
Lisburn  0  0  0  0  0  0
Londonderry  0  0  1  4  2  7
Magherafelt  1  2  0  0  0  3
Newry  0  1  1  2  0  4
Newtownards  1  0  0  2  5  8
Omagh  1  1  0  0  1  3
Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ)  3  4  2  4  3  16
Strabane  1  1  0  0  0  2
Court Funds Office  1  1  0  0  1  3
Communications Group  3  2  0  0  0  5
Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO)  4  4  6  7  5  26
Coroners Service  0  1  1  0  2  4
Customer Service Centre (CSC)  1  3  0  3  3  10
Civil Processing Centre (CPC)  3  4  0  0  1  8
Human Resource Unit  1  1  0  0  0  2
Central Complaints (Received in Communications Group)  16  17  21  26  11  91
Total  50  49  52  62  47  260

The venues that recorded the most complaints were:

Breakdown by Category of Complaint

A breakdown of complaints received by category over the last 12 months is illustrated in Table 3 below.

Table 3: Breakdown of complaints by category

Jan – Mar 09  Apr- Jun 09  Jul - Sep 09  Oct - Dec 09  Jan – Mar 10  Total
Summons Server  1  1  1  2  0  5
Court Service Staff  3  7  3  5  6  24
Delays  6  5  6  7  6  30
Administrative Error  6  7  6  4  5  28
Accommodation  6  2  10  12  10  40
Jury Service  2  2  2  2  1  9
Information Available  6  2  1  2  3  14
Telephone Manner  0  0  0  0  0  0
Online Services  1  0  5  1  0  7
Security Staff  2  2  1  1  0  6
Fees  1  0  0  0  0  1
Catering  0  0  0  3  3  6
Website  4  1  2  9  0  16
Minor of Age Funds  0  0  0  0  0  0
Investment of fund  0  0  0  0  0  0
ICOS  0  0  0  0  0  0
Other  12  20  15  14  13  74
Total  50  49  52  62  47  260

The following 5 categories account for the majority [85%] of complaints recorded.

A breakdown of the 5 main categories of complaints recorded by venue is illustrated in Table 4 below:

Table 4: Breakdown of main categories of complaints received

Category of Complaint Total no of Complaints Business Area
Bangor Court  Coleraine Court  Craigavon Court  Coroners Service  Customer Service Centre  Civil Processing Centre  Downpatrick Court  Dungannon Court  Enniskillen Court  EJO  Laganside Court  Londonderry Court  Newtownards Court  Newry Court  RCJ  Other
Accommodation  10 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 1  
Court Service Staff  6 1  1 1 1 1 1  
Delays  6 1 2 1  2
Administrative Error 5 3 1 1
Other  13 1 1 1 1 2 5 1 1
Total  40

Breakdown of Complaints Received Centrally (in Communications Group)

A breakdown of the complaints received centrally during this quarter, by category and location is illustrated in Table 5 below.

Table 5: Breakdown of complaints received centrally

Category of Complaint  Total No of Complaints  Business Area
Coleraine Court EJO  Downpatrick Court  Newry  Laganside Courts  Dungannon Court  RCJ Other
Delays  1  1
Court Service Staff  1  1
Accommodation  1  1
Administrative Error  1  1
Other  7  1  4  1  1
Total  11

Complaints Upheld

Of the 47 complaints received a total of 32 (68%) were upheld.

The main categories of complaints upheld related to:

Follow Up Action

The follow up action taken in respect of the complaints upheld has been categorised into three areas below:

Apology/explanation given                                                                         9 complaints
Remedial action/procedures revised                                                         22 complaints
Financial compensation for financial loss, inconvenience or distress             1 complaints

As a result of the complaints received, these are the actions we have taken:

  1. Provided alternative heating in Bangor Courthouse
  2. Remitted a fine that was imposed in error
  3. Reimbursed the fee for a new driving licence as a result of an administrative error
  4. Investigated problems with the heating in the cell area in Craigavon courthouse
  5. Issued a survey in respect of juror’s meals
  6. Repaired a faulty chair in Dungannon courthouse
  7. Provided information promptly as a result of a delay
  8. Expedited the progress of a case
  9. Issued an apology due to incorrect information given regarding the payment of a fine
  10. Apologised and provided an explanation due to dissatisfaction with jury service
  11. Granted approval to improve the heating in the reception area in Londonderry courthouse
  12. Sourced alternative heating for Newtownards courthouse
  13. Re-trained staff as a result of an administrative error
  14. Accelerated a decree absolute search
  15. Thoroughly tested the video link equipment in the Royal Courts of Justice
  16. Offered to raise awareness, through an interdepartmental working group, of the problems faced by victims of crime.

Follow up Questionnaires

The Northern Ireland Court Service routinely encloses a copy of a follow-up questionnaire with each response to a complaint. The purpose of the follow-up questionnaire is to find out how satisfied our customers are with the way in which their complaint was handled.

During this quarter four follow up questionnaires were returned, with three customers expressing satisfaction at the way their complaint was handled.

Breakdown of how complaints are received

Registering a complaint by letter continues to be the most popular method used by customers, during this quarter 43% [20] were made by letter. A breakdown of how complaints were received is illustrated in Table 6 below.

Table 6: Method of making a complaint

Jan –Mar 09  Apr- Jun 09  Jul - Sep 09  Oct – Dec 09  Jan –Mar 10  Total
Letter  22  24  16  21  20  103
In Person  2  3  12  5  2  24
Telephone  6  7  8  7  5  33
Email  12  12  12  19  9  64
Complaints Form  4  2  1  2  4  13
Fax  0  0  0  0  2  2
Comment Card  4  1  3  8  5  21
Total  50  49  52  62  47  260

Response Time

During this quarter 96% (45) of complaints received were answered within the 15 day turnaround time, with 2 complaints falling outside this timescale.

Communications Group
May 2010