Complaints about a court or a judge

Complaints about a court

We would firstly advise you to contact the court which you wish to make a complaint about, as they will be best placed to resolve your complaint. You should ask them how you can submit a complaint. Alternatively you can make an online complaint with the service Resolver. They will submit a complaint on your behalf and keep you updated on the process. Resolver is an independent service of HM Court and Tribunal Service.

What can you complain about?

  • The service you received at the court
  • The way your case was handled by the administrative staff
  • The facilities within the court
  • How you were treated by any staff within the court

The court cannot consider a complaint about a judge’s decision. Please see our page on Appeals for further information on appealing a decision.

If you wish to make a complaint about a judge’s personal conduct, please see the information below about submitting a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.  

The process

  • Your complaint will need to be sent to the court where the issue arose. You should highlight the things you are unhappy with and include in your letter how you would like this addressed.
  • It is likely your complaint will be dealt by the staff at the court. You should receive a response within 10 working days.
  • If you are not happy with the outcome, you can ask for your case to be independently reviewed by a senior manager. You should receive a response within 10 working days.
  • If you are still not satisfied with the response, your case will be escalated to the Customer Investigations Team for a final assessment. You should receive a response in 15 working days.

If you are not satisfied with the response from the Customer Investigations Team, you can ask for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to assess your case. To do this you will need to contact your local MP or phone 020 7219 4272.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is an independent organisation that investigates complaints where they believe a customer has been treated unfairly or received a poor service.

Complaints about a judge

How to complain about a judge

A complaint about a judge can be made to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office can look into complaints about the following:

  • Deputy District Judge
  • District Judge
  • Master
  • Recorder
  • Coroner / Assistant Coroner
  • Circuit Judge
  • High Court Judge
  • Lord Justice

What can you complain about?

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office can only look into complaints about the personal conduct of a judge. You cannot complain about a judge’s decision or the way a judge has conducted a case. Please see our page on Appeals to challenge a judge’s decision.

You can make a complaint about:

  • The use of racist, sexist or offensive language
  • Falling asleep in court
  • Inappropriate use of social media
  • Mis-using judicial status for personal gain or advantage

You must provide the following:

  • Your name and address
  • The name of the judge you wish to complain about
  • The date when the matter you wish to complain about occurred
  • Specific details of what you wish to complain about. For example, if you feel that a judge was rude, you will need to explain what was said or done by the judge that you felt was rude; providing examples of the language used or behaviour shown.

It would also be helpful to include the following information:

  • The court where the hearing took place
  • The relevant case number
  • The time of the hearing or incident
  • Details of any third parties who may have witnessed, or be able to support, your complaint

How to make a complaint

  • You can submit a complaint online.
  • The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office will acknowledge your complaint within two working days.
  • A caseworker should write to you within 15 working days.
  • They will provide you with an update on your complaint every four weeks.
  • When your complaint has reached a conclusion, they will provide you with a written explanation of the outcome.

Steps you can take if you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint

If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint, you can contact the Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman within 28 days of being notified that your complaint has been dealt with and closed.

You will be required to download and complete a judicial conduct complaint form.

You can either email this to headofoffice@jaco.gsi.gov.uk or send the completed form to this address:

Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman
9.53, 9th Floor, The Tower
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

What will happen once you have submitted the complaint to the Ombudsman?

  • The Ombudsman will write to you to inform you whether they will accept your complaint.
  • If the Ombudsman is able to consider your complaint further, your complaint file will be requested from the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.
  • They will then carry out a detailed initial evaluation to determine whether a full investigation needs to be carried out. If there is no likelihood of a finding of maladministration, you will be provided with a preliminary investigation report setting out the reasons why a full investigation is not required. This should take no longer than 6 weeks.
  • If the Ombudsman determines that a full investigation is required, an Investigating Officer will conduct a thorough investigation of the complaint which may take several months.
  • The investigating officer will report to the Ombudsman, who will decide the outcome of your case. They will set out the decision in a report and send this to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice for their comments.
  • Once the comments have been received, the Ombudsman will finalise the report and send you a copy, explaining how they determined the complaint.

Possible outcomes after the Ombudsman has considered the complaint

The Ombudsman can:

  • Set aside a decision made by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office and direct that they look at the complaint again.
  • Recommend that an investigation or determination should be considered by a Disciplinary Panel.
  • Ask the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office to write to you and apologise for what went wrong.
  • Recommend that changes are made in the way the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office work in future to prevent the same thing happening again.
  • Suggest payment of compensation for a loss which appears to the Ombudsman to have been suffered as a direct result of the mishandling of your complaint.

How to complain about magistrates

Complaints must be sent to the relevant advisory committee within three months of the matter complained of. You can find a list of the relevant committees online.

The Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman can also consider complaints about the way a complaint is handled by the advisory committee.