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Complaints Procedure

Our Complaints Handling Procedure tells you how we will deal with your complaint and how long it is likely to take. It also provides you with important information about what you can do if you are not happy with the way in which we are dealing with your complaint, or about our final decision.

Designated Complaints Handler

If you have any concerns about our service, our work, or our charges, you should discuss these first with the individual who has day-to-day control of your matter. If this person cannot satisfactorily address your concerns and you wish to make a complaint, please contact our Designated Complaints Handler, Steven Eldridge. Steven is a Solicitor and Director at Thornton Jones Solicitors and you can write to him at Bank House, 1 Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2GF or you can send an Email to steven@thorntonjones.co.uk.

Step One: Acknowledging your Complaint

Within two working days of receiving your complaint, it will be recorded in our Complaints Register and a separate file will be opened in which we will store any correspondence and other documents relating to your complaint. Within two working days we will also send you a letter acknowledging your complaint.

Step Two: Investigating your Complaint

Within five working days of receiving your complaint, we will review your file(s) and any other relevant documentation and send you a letter telling you how we propose to deal with your complaint. Examples of what we might say in this letter are as follows:

  • If your complaint is straightforward we might make suggestions as to how we can put things right or we may offer you some form of redress;
  • If your complaint is more complicated we might ask you to confirm, explain or clarify any issues;
  • We may ask to meet with you to discuss things face-to-face and we would hope to be in a position to meet with you no longer than fourteen working days after first receiving your complaint. If you would prefer not to meet, or if we cannot arrange this within an agreeable timescale, we will write to you fully setting out our views on the situation and making suggestions as to how we can put things right, or asking you to confirm, explain or clarify any issues. Within three working days of any meeting, we will write to you again to confirm what took place and to confirm any offer of redress that we have made.

Whichever form our investigation takes, we will aim to give you our final decision within six weeks of receiving your complaint (or sooner if possible).

Step Three: Appealing against our Final Decision

If you are not satisfied with our final decision, please let us know and we will review our decision again. We will let you know the result of any review within five working days of receiving your appeal and will then confirm your options in writing. If you remain dissatisfied, you can then contact the Legal Ombudsman about your complaint. We will also advise you whether we are prepared to engage in alternative methods of mediation.

Step Four: The Legal Ombudsman

You may refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman provided you do so within six months of the end of this Complaints Handling Procedure.

In addition, there are also time limits that apply to the date you first became aware or should have become aware of the problem causing your complaint. The relevant time limits are set out in the version of the Legal Ombudsman’s Scheme Rules in force from time to time (which can be accessed at: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/downloads/documents/publications/Scheme-Rules.pdf) or by contacting the Legal Ombudsman using the contact details provided below) and may only be extended by the Legal Ombudsman in exceptional circumstances. Currently, the Scheme Rules state that you must refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman no later than:

- six years from the act/omission; or

- three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint

Ordinarily, you cannot use the Legal Ombudsman unless you have first attempted to resolve your complaint using our Complaints Handling Procedure, but you will be able to contact the Legal Ombudsman if:

  • The complaint has not been resolved to your satisfaction within eight weeks of first making the complaint to us; or
  • The Legal Ombudsman decides that there are exceptional reasons why the Legal Ombudsman should consider your complaint sooner, or without you having to use our internal Complaints Handling Procedure first; or
  • The Legal Ombudsman considers that your complaint cannot be resolved using our internal Complaints Handling Procedure because the relationship between you and us has broken down irretrievably.

If you wish to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman you must be one of the following:

  • An individual;
  • A micro-enterprise as defined in European Recommendation 2003/361/EC of 6 May 2003 (broadly, an enterprise with fewer than 10 staff and a turnover or balance sheet value not exceeding €2 million);
  • A charity with an annual income less than £1 million;
  • A club, association or society with an annual income less than £1 million;
  • A trustee of a trust with a net asset value less than £1 million; or
  • A personal representative or the residuary beneficiaries of an estate where a person with a complaint died before referring it to the Legal Ombudsman.

If you are not, you should be aware that you can only obtain redress by using our Complaints Handling Procedure or by mediation or arbitration, or by taking action through the Courts.

Legal Ombudsman Contact Details

Address:          PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ

Telephone:      0300 555 0333

Email:              enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

Website:          www.legalombudsman.org.uk

Alternative complaints bodies

Alternative complaints bodies, such as ProMediate UK Ltd (www.promediate.co.uk) exist and are competent to deal with complaints about legal services should both you and this firm wish to use such a scheme.  We do not usually agree to use mediation schemes as we believe the Legal Ombudsman is better equipped to resolve complaints against legal firms.

Complaints about our professional conduct or behaviour

Our regulatory body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic.

We are bound by various professional rules of conduct which can be viewed at www.sra.org.uk. You can also see more information about the help the SRA can give to you here: https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor.page

Solicitors Regulation Authority Contact Details:

Address:          The Cube, 199 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RN

Telephone:      The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s contact centre’s number is 0370 606 2555

Email:              report@sra.org.uk

Website:          www.sra.org.uk

 

Mediation Complaints Procedure

If you have any concerns about our practice or the service you’ve received from us as your chosen Mediator, there are a number of steps you can take.

We do hope you will talk to us in the first instance about your concern or complaint so that we can deal with it immediately if we can.

If that does not prove possible, Thornton Jones Solicitors has a complaints procedure. For advice about how to make a complaint, please contact Elizabeth Fyfe.

We hope we’ll be able to resolve your complaint by one of these steps, however if we’re unable to do so, you may make a complaint to another member of this practice.  If the complaint is about Shelley Wales then the investigation will be carried out by Clare Thornton who is her supervisor.  If the complaint is about Clare Thornton then it will be investigated by Steven Eldridge who is the firm’s complaints partner.

Who can make a complaint?

A client, a former client or a qualifying third party.

The following qualify as third parties who can make a complaint against a mediator:

  • A prospective client who has been directly affected by a mediator’s professional behaviour;
  • A person who has been invited to participate in a mediation process, for example another professional who attends a mediation. For the avoidance of doubt, it is common for a mediator to contact a potential mediation participant after seeing the other potential mediation participant. Complaints about a mediator making contact with a potential participant do not therefore need to be investigated by mediators and will not be accepted by the FMSB. Likewise, mediators may sign court forms to say one person has attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) without notifying a potential second mediation participant or inviting them to attend MIAM themselves. Complaints about a mediator not making contact with a potential participant do not therefore need to be investigated by mediators and will not be accepted by the FMSB.

Please note that neither mediators nor the FMSB will be able to disclose any information to you that is confidential between the mediator and the mediation participant(s). It is therefore normal that as a third party, you will only receive a limited amount of information in response to your complaint, even in circumstances where it is considered by the FMSB.

Timescales

You must make your complaint to us in writing within 3 months of the last session of mediation or MIAMs appointment,

We will acknowledge your complaint within a maximum of 10 working days of receipt of the same,

We will investigate your complaint and respond to it within 30 working days of receipt of the same.  If an extension of this timeframe is required we will confirm that to you in writing and explain the reasons why we need to extend the timeframe.

What can you complain about?

We can only deal with complaints that relates to breaches of the FMC’s Codes of Practice or Standards Framework as set out in the Agreement to Mediate.

Complaints that appear to be vexatious or of a purely personal nature do not have to be investigated.  This will include the following:

  • Complaints where the purpose appears to be to intimidate, disturb, disrupt and/or unduly or unfairly pressurise the mediator or the FMSB; -
  • Complaints which are persistent/repetitive, and repeating the same or substantially similar complaints which have already been investigated;
  • Complaints which are are clearly unfounded and unsupported by evidence;
  • Complaints which are irrelevant and relate to matters other than mediation;
  • Complaints where abusive or offensive language is used.
  • Complaints can be considered of a purely personal nature if they are discriminatory or focus on the personal attributes or circumstances of a mediator rather than their actions as a mediator.

What happens if you are unsatisfied with the outcome of the complaint investigation?

We will always consider mediation as a way to help resolve the complaint. 

Otherwise, you can refer your complaint to the Family Mediation Standards Board who can be contacted via https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/complaints-about-mediators/