Complaints Policy

July 2020

  1. The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple is committed to providing a highly professional service and to promoting an open and responsive culture where people feel confident to speak up when things go wrong so that we can learn from these situations as an organisation and continually improve. This policy outlines the steps that individuals can and are encouraged to take to bring any concerns to the attention of the organisation’s leadership.
  2. This policy should be read alongside, as applicable, the Inn’s relevant Bench Table Orders (see paragraph 19); the Equality Diversity & Inclusivity Policy; the Inn’s values; the Staff Grievance Policy; and the Inns of Court Anti-Harassment Policy.

Definitions

  1. In this Policy:
    • “the Inn” means The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple
    • “Sub-Treasurer” means the Chief Executive of the Inn
    • “Treasurer” means the most senior member of the Inn
    • “Bench Table Orders” means the Inn’s governance rules and procedures
    • “Masters of the Bench” means senior elected members of the Inn who hold this office for life
    • “users of our services” means members and non-members who use any of the Inn’s services
    • “Memorandum of Understanding” means the agreement with the Bar Standards Board setting out the roles and responsibilities of the Inns of Court in relation to the education, training and qualification of barristers of England and Wales and is concerned with matters prior to Call to the Bar
    • “complaint” means one or more statements that (in the view of the person(s) or organisation(s) making it/them) something is wrong or not satisfactory about any matter defined in Paragraph 4 which requires a formal response.

Scope

  1. This policy is for members and staff of the Inn and users of our services. The policy is intended to deal with concerns related to any of the following:
    • Delivery of the Inn’s services and activities
    • Administration of the Inn’s role and responsibilities as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding. These are:
      • Student membership
      • Fit and proper checks at admission and Call
      • Student conduct process
      • Qualifying Sessions
    • Conduct of members and/or staff of the Inn
  1. This Policy does not apply to complaints made by clients concerning practising barrister members or their employees, which are covered by barristers’ clients’ complaints procedures and, where necessary, should be reported directly to the Bar Standards Board.
  2. This Policy does not apply to complaints about a judicial member’s decision on a point of law or the way a judicial member has managed a case, which should be discussed with a solicitor, law centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Complaints about the personal conduct of a judicial member may be referred directly to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.
  3. Any concern or complaint will be treated as being raised in good faith, if supported by narrative and/or evidence of the allegation. The Inn is committed to ensuring that no one who raises a concern or complaint in good faith should be subjected to any detriment as a result. Any victimisation of a complainant, witness or anyone else involved in the investigation of a complaint will be viewed as a disciplinary matter.
  4. We ask that individuals engage with the Inn in a constructive manner to help us to understand the concerns raised and investigate the complaint effectively. Our staff have the right to work in a safe environment and should not have to tolerate abusive language or behaviour.
  5. The Inn reserves the right not to investigate any complaint considered to be vexatious, nor to deal with repeated subject access requests.

Raising a Concern or a Complaint - Initial Stage

  1. In many cases a concern or complaint can be dealt with quickly and informally at an initial stage. In the first instance, individuals are encouraged to raise their concern with the relevant staff member or the staff member’s Head of Department. Initial contact can be made in person, by phone or by email.  Contact details can be found here.
  2. The staff member responding to the concern at this stage will:
    • respond promptly;
    • listen to and – as appropriate - discuss the person’s concerns;
    • explain the Inn’s formal complaints procedure
    • discuss what outcome the person raising the concern would like to achieve;
    • set out the reporting requirement to the Inns’ Conduct Committee or Bar Standards Board where relevant;
    • agree a way forward that the person raising the complaint is happy with, in so far as possible;
    • keep the person raising the complaint informed of the outcome of any action taken;
    • if agreed, communicate with the subject of the complaint, clarify the parties' respective positions and where appropriate attempt to resolve the matter in a less formal way, keeping all parties informed of the outcome;
    • respect the confidentiality of the person raising the complaint so far as possible.  However, those raising issues should be aware that the Inn has a duty of care for all members and in the most serious cases it may not be possible to take no action.
  1. Resolution at this initial stage could take the form of:
    • an apology;
    • mediation between the parties;
    • an appropriate person speaking with the subject of the complaint, to advise that the behaviour was unwelcome and should not happen again;
    • support in accessing counselling for the complainant or subject of the complaint;
    • the subject of the complaint agreeing to attend a relevant training course; or
    • a decision that no action shall be taken.
  1. This initial stage should take no more than 14 days, although resolution actions may take longer to complete.
  2. Confidential records will be kept of all initial contacts made, and will include the nature of the concern raised, the steps taken to resolve issues, and whether it progressed to a formal complaint. Anonymised records may be used by the Inn to inform relevant committees and members of any patterns and to inform more general messaging to members and improve training for members.
  3. At any point during the initial stage the individual raising a concern can choose to make a formal complaint, including immediately upon making initial contact.

Making a Formal Complaint

  1. Formal complaints should be submitted in writing by letter or email and will only be considered as “formal complaints” if stipulated as such in the written complaint. The individual who has raised the formal complaint will at the request of the Inn provide any further information necessary to assist the Inn in investigating and responding to the complaint.  The outcome of the complaint investigation will be communicated to the complainant in writing by letter or email. Appeals against the outcome of the investigation should be submitted in writing by letter or email in accordance with the relevant policies in paragraph 2.

Formal complaints about the delivery of the Inn’s services or activities or the administration of the Inn’s roles and responsibilities as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding

  1. A formal complaint in relation to the above should be submitted to the relevant Head of Department. The Inn will aim to investigate and resolve the formal complaint within 28 days of the formal complaint being received. This period may be extended if there are good reasons for delay. Appeals against the outcome of the investigation should be submitted in writing by letter or email to the Sub-Treasurer who will review the complaint. The Sub-Treasurer’s decision is final.

Formal complaints about the conduct of permanent, temporary or contracted staff members of the Inn

  1. A formal complaint in relation to the above should be submitted to the relevant Head of Department or to the Sub-Treasurer (or if about the Sub-Treasurer, to the Treasurer) or to the Master of the Staff. The formal complaint will be dealt with according to the Inn’s Human Resources Disciplinary Policy and Grievance Procedure.

Formal complaints about the conduct of members of the Inn

  1. A formal complaint in relation to the above should be submitted to the Sub-Treasurer who will report the complaint to the Treasurer of the Inn (or if about the Treasurer, to the Reader). The formal complaint will be dealt with according to the relevant procedure for complaints against student members of the Inn or for complaints against other members of the Inn, as set out in the Bench Table Orders 38-43; and the Schedule: Complaints and Discipline. The Bench Table Orders are available to student members and other members of the Inn on the Members’ Area of the Inn’s website. The relevant Bench Table Orders will be provided on request to any complainant who is not a member of the Inn.
  2. If the formal complaint is upheld, depending on the seriousness of the complaint, resolution at this stage may include, but is not limited to:
    1. an appropriate person speaking with the subject of the complaint to advise that the conduct was unwelcome and should not happen again. Further monitoring of their conduct may be recommended;
    2. referring the complaint to the Bar Standards Board;
    3. referring the complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office;
    4. referring a student member to the Inns' Conduct Committee;
    5. the subject of the complaint being banned from acting as a volunteer in Inn activities or accessing Inn services or attending Inn events for a fixed or indefinite period;
    6. recommending changes in Inn practices or processes;
    7. the subject of the complaint agreeing to attend an appropriate training course.
  1. All records of formal complaints, including information provided by the individual who has raised the complaint, notes of meetings, results of investigations and other relevant material shall be kept confidential by the Inn except where disclosure is required by law or for disciplinary or other remedial processes. Records shall be retained for the assumed lifetime of the parties concerned. The nature and number of formal complaints received relating to the administration of roles and responsibilities set out in the Memorandum of Understanding will be shared with the Bar Standards Board.  Anonymised records may be used by the Inn to inform relevant committees and members of any patterns and to inform more general messaging to members and improve training for members.
  2. This policy is available on the Inn’s website.