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Honorary Justices complaints policy and procedure

This complaints policy outlines the basis and principles to be applied to the handling of complaints. 

A complaint is an expression of concern, dissatisfaction or frustration with the quality or delivery of service or the conduct of a Justice of the Peace or Bail Justice.

All complaints must be made in the prescribed form. For information on how to lodge a complaint see 'how and where to lodge a complaint', below.

Complaints policy

This complaints policy deals with complaints against Victorian Bail Justices and Justices of the Peace, collectively referred to as Honorary Justices.

This policy aims to deliver:

Commitment 

The Honorary Justice Office (HJO), as part of the department, is committed to ensuring that a complaint is resolved fairly and as soon as practicable.
It is vital that individuals wishing to make a complaint are dealt with professionally and sympathetically. Complainants and their concerns are taken seriously and are impartially managed by the HJO.

Fairness

The HJO applies the rules of natural justice and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 when managing a complaint. The complainant and Honorary Justice are given the opportunity to participate in the complaints process and can expect to receive written notification of the outcome of the complaint, including reasons supporting that outcome.

Transparency and access

Either via our website (justice.vic.gov.au/justices) or upon request, the HJO readily provides information to complainants and honorary justices as to the steps involved in lodging a complaint.  

Responsiveness

The HJO acknowledges a complaint in writing within fourteen (14) days of receipt. The office is dedicated to resolving complaints as quickly, and with as little formality, as proper consideration of the matter allows

Privacy and confidentiality

The HJO is committed to the protection of individuals' personal information through compliance with the Information Privacy Act 2000.
The department information privacy policy explains:

  • the types of information collected in response to correspondence, including complaints
  • why it is collected
  • what is done with it
  • how it is handled.

The privacy policy can be accessed on this website and from the HJO upon request.

When a complaint is received the Honorary Justice is provided with a copy of the complaint so that he or she can respond to the allegations made. All complaints must therefore be in the prescribed form.

The HJO will not take action on an anonymous complaint, unless that complaint identifies a public interest or safety issue.

If a complainant does not want their identity disclosed to the Honorary Justice, a written request should be made to the HJO. The reasons for such a request must be provided. Circumstances that would warrant the non disclosure of a complainant could include, but is not limited to, the physical safety for either the complainant or persons known to the complainant or the Honorary Justice, risk to employment, association and property.

If the HJO determines to withhold the identity of the complainant, the Honorary Justice will be provided with a summary or extract of the complaint which will include enough detail to enable the Honorary Justice to comprehensively respond to the matters raised.

Accountability

The HJO is required to maintain a complaint register which contributes to the management reporting capability of the HJO. Ongoing work is being done to improve this function to ensure the recording and reporting of complaints is both informative and robust. 

The complaints handling process is set out below, under 'complaints procedure', and participants are advised of all complaint outcomes.

Business improvement

A key focus of the HJO is to ensure that complaints and the outcomes are recorded and are able to be analysed to identify any recurring or systemic trends and areas for improvement.

Review

Where a complaint has been investigated and a decision made, a person dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint may seek a review of the decision by making the request in writing to:

Director
Community Operations and Victims Support Agency
Department of Justice & Regulation
GPO Box 4349
Melbourne VIC 3001

Complaints against Justices of the Peace or Bail Justices

Justices of the Peace and Bail Justices are expected to comply with the Code of Conduct for Honorary Justices which is prescribed in Schedule 3 to the Magistrates' Court General Regulations 2011.

A decision made by a Bail Justice, or where a Bail Justice has exercised discretion as provided by Victorian legislation, cannot be the subject of a complaint. Neither the lodging of a complaint, nor the outcome of the complaint, will alter the decision made by a Bail Justice.

Where a person is concerned about the conduct of a Justice of the Peace or Bail Justice, such concerns can be raised in writing with the Honorary Justice Office (HJO).

Complaints procedure

The expected time frame for the completion of a complaint is sixty (60) working days.

Upon receipt of a completed complaint form, the department is required to:

  • acknowledge the complaint in writing within ten (10) working days of receipt
  • consider any written request by the complainant not to disclose his or her identity to the Honorary Justice
  • contact the complainant should their request for non-disclosure of identity be denied and ascertain whether the complainant wishes to pursue the complaint
  • subject to any outcomes regarding requests for non-disclosure, contact the Honorary Justice who is the subject of the complaint, informing them the details of the complaint
  • make a preliminary determination of whether:
    • the allegation constitutes a valid complaint
    • the HJO is the appropriate body to receive the complaint
    • the complaint reasonably relates to conduct in the course of the Honorary Justice's duties
    • the complaint can be resolved informally
    • further review is required
  • parties will be notified if, at any stage of the process, it becomes apparent that the completion of the investigation will be delayed beyond 60 working days due to the nature of the complaint.

The department will allocate the complaint within one of the following categories. In the event that alleged conduct falls under more than one category, the higher category will apply:

Category A

  • Complaints about an Honorary Justice's demeanour or attitude (examples include but are not limited to rude, hostile or otherwise inappropriate conduct)
  • Minor lapses in expected competence (examples include but are not limited to failing to witness every page of a document, incorrectly identifying grounds to refuse bail)
  • Any other legitimate complaint not giving rise to a breach of the Code of Conduct for Honorary Justices.

Category B

  • Complaints alleging serious misconduct (examples include but are not limited to incompetent, abusive, discriminatory or dishonest conduct)
  • A breach of the relevant code of conduct
  • Prosecution and/or conviction of a criminal offence
  • Repeated complaints against an Honorary Justice
  • Any other complaint that, if proven, would give rise to serious consideration of revoking the Honorary Justice's appointment.

For Category A complaints, the department will:

  • Attempt to resolve the complaint informally through discussion with the Honorary Justice and the complainant, with potential outcomes such as the honorary justice being referred to further training, professional counselling and mentoring

For Category B complaints, the department will:

  • Refer the matter to an independent investigator to investigate and make recommendations, including whether or not the Honorary Justice should be removed from office

The independent investigator's review may conclude with one or more of the following outcomes:

  • the complaint is unsubstantiated and no further action is required
  • advise the Honorary Justice the complaint is substantiated and provide reasons
  • the Honorary Justice may make a verbal or written apology
  • the Honorary Justice may be matched with a buddy to improve skills and understanding of the role
  • the Honorary Justice may be asked to undergo further training
  • refer the matter to Victoria Police for investigation
  • the Honorary Justice be removed from office.

No element of this procedure interferes with the powers and obligations of the department's Secretary, under Sections 122 to 122B of the Magistrates' Court Act 1989 regarding the suspension and removal from office of a Bail Justice.

Outcome

The department is required to advise the parties of the outcome of the complaint in writing.

How and where to lodge a complaint

All complaints must be in writing using the prescribed form. The Complaint form about the conduct of an Honorary Justice in Victoria is available online. A completed complaint form can be sent by post, email or fax to:

Honorary Justice Office
GPO Box 4349
Melbourne VIC 3000

Email jp@justice.vic.gov.au

Fax 03 8684 6777

When a complaint cannot be resolved

Where a complaint remains unresolved or a person is dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint, they may write to the director, Community Operations and Victims Support Agency at:

Community Operations and Victims Support Agency
GPO Box 4349
Melbourne VIC 3001

Complaints regarding the Honorary Justice Office's complaint handling process can be addressed to:

Ombudsman Victoria
Level 9, 459 Collins Street (North Tower)
Melbourne VIC 3000

Assistance

For assistance or further information, please contact the Honorary Justice Office:

Honorary Justice Office
GPO Box 4349
Melbourne VIC 3000

Email jp@justice.vic.gov.au

Fax 03 8684 6777

Phone 03 8684 4117
 

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags

The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.