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HM Courts & Tribunals Service

Customer Investigations Team


Post Point 10.34
102 Petty France
London
HM Courts & SW1H 9AJ

Tribunals Service Email:


ComplaintsCorres&LT@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Mr

Grimsby
North East Lincolnshire
DN32

6 April 2017 Our ref: 00042/165/1617

Without Prejudice

Dear Mr

Grimsby Magistrates Court

Thank you for your letter of 19 March about the way your application for a case stated
was handled by the Grimsby Magistrates Court. I am sorry that you remain dissatisfied
with the previous replies you have received. I am replying at the final stage of the
complaints process.

I have reviewed the previous responses from Mrs Watts and Mr Hopgood and having
done so I believe your complaint needs further investigation. After careful consideration
I have decided to uphold your complaint and offer you compensation for the poor level
of service that you have received. My reasons for this are as follows.

I understand that the North East Lincolnshire Council issued a summons against you
for unpaid council tax and the court hearing was set for 2 November 2012. Before the
hearing took place you paid the outstanding sum of 437.52 and also 10 towards the
costs. The court decided that you should pay the councils remaining costs of 60. On
the 21 November 2012 you applied to the court to state a case so you could appeal the
decision. An acknowledgment was sent to you on 22 November 2012 by the Deputy
Justices Clerk, Mr Draper.

You chased for a response on 28 December 2012 but your email to Mr Draper was not
delivered. You then emailed the Justices Clerk, Mrs Alison Watts, also on 28
December 2012. You received a response to your emails on 14 January 2013 from Mr
Townell confirming that he would find out what was happening with your application.
On the 24 January 2013 Mrs Watts wrote to you to confirm that the justices required
you to enter into a recognizance of 500 before they stated the case for consideration
of the High Court.

On the 5 February 2013 you wrote to the court to find out why you had been asked to
pay 500. You felt that you were being prevented access to the courts because you
could not afford this sum. The court acknowledged your letter on 6 February and
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confirmed the matter would be brought to the attention of Mrs Watts. You chased for a
reply on 26 February and were informed on 27 February that Mrs Watts was looking
into the matter.

I note that on the 23 March 2013 you wrote to the Administrative Court Office (ACO)
telling them that you would like to apply to the High Court for an order that the justices
state the case. You were told by the ACO that you would need to apply for Judicial
Review (JR).

On the 27 March you asked the court for an update and you were informed on the
same day that the matter was receiving attention. In the absence of a response you
wrote a further letter on 29 April asking for a certificate under section 111(5) of the
MCA1980 to confirm the reasons why the justices have refused to state a case. You
explained that if you did not receive a response within 14 days you would be apply for a
JR. In the absence of a response you began the JR procedure and your application
was issued on 13 June 2013.

The courts response to your JR application was that you had not been asked to pay
the 500 upfront and that the letter dated 23 January 2013 explained that position.
However, the court agreed, in order to save public money, to prepare a draft case and
serve on the parties within 14 days. On the 24 July 2013 a draft case was dispatched
for the parties comments. You replied on 19 August 2013. I note that the council
responded on 9 September 2013.

On the 10 January 2014, and also on 13 February, you wrote to the court to ask why
the final case stated had not been sent out. On the 6 March Mrs Watts said she would
look into the matter and get back to you by the following morning. You then wrote again
on 22 April 2014 asking why you have not had a response. In the absence of a
response you raised a complaint with the Advisory Committee. I do not propose to
repeat the history of this specific complaint, but I have noted that you experienced
difficulties with the process. You escalated the matter to the Judicial Appointments &
Conduct Ombudsman (JACO) and received a final report on 23 May 2016.

On the 25 June 2016 you wrote to my team out of frustration because you were yet to
receive the case stated and this was preventing you to go to the High Court. At this
point you had waited three and half years for the case to be stated. In line with the HM
Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) complaints process my team asked the court to
investigate what had happened.

Mrs Watts wrote to you on the 22 July 2016 and acknowledge that the level of service
provided to you on occasions could have been better. She explained that the case
stated was posted to you on 19 December 2013 and that further copies were sent to
you on 20 February 2014 and 1 May 2014.

On the 26 January 2017 you emailed Ms Collins asking for a review of the complaint. I
believe that you had recently received copies of correspondence from the court file
following a Subject Access Request and had found that a number of letters had not
reached you through the post. Mr Hopgood responded to you on 22 February 2017 at
the review stage of the complaints process.

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My findings.

It is clear that you had a strong view about the costs that were awarded to the local
council on 2 November 2012. While the amount in contention was 60, it was your right
to apply to the court to state a case. The initial handling of your application was poor
because insufficient arrangements had been made to cover Mr Drapers work after he
had left the court. I am sorry that you had to wait two months before you received the
courts letter of 24 January 2013. You had a number of issues with the decision to
impose a recognizance to pay 500 and wrote to the court about this. I understand the
consequence of entering into a recognizance was that if you did not pursue your
appeal in the High Court you would have had to pay 500. If you did pursue your
appeal the 500 would not have to be paid. I cannot comment on a judicial decision but
I do consider the handling of your correspondence on the matter was very poor.

I could not find any substantial response to your letter of 5 February 2013 and I believe
this was the courts opportunity to clarify and explain the position to you. It must have
been very frustrating for you that you were not given a full reply. I am sorry that the only
way you were able to prompt a response from the court was by issuing a judicial review
application. It was at that stage that the court decided to prepare the draft case without
the need for a recognizance. It is my view that the final case stated document could
have been prepared in a timelier manner and served on the parties before the 19
December 2013.

You have said that you did not receive the courts letter of 19 December 2013 or the
additional letters sent to you on 20 February 2014 and 1 May 2014. I am not doubting
you did not receive the letters through the post. I am sorry that is the case but I have
not seen any reason to believe they were not posted to you. I have noted the courts
admission that the final case should have been sent by recorded delivery. The court is
unable to provide any evidence that this method of postage was used. Therefore I hold
the view the letter of 19 December 2013 was not sent by recorded delivery.

It is regrettable that you did not receive 10 documents through the post but, in the
absence of receiving the letters, I do appreciate why you felt you were being ignored. I
therefore understand why you made a complaint about the judiciary. After you received
the final JACO report in 2016 you reverted to the HMCTS complaints process. Again, it
is regrettable that you did not received the courts response dated 22 July 2016 but I
have not seen any reason to suggest that it was not posted to you in the normal way.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that you have experienced a very poor level of service due to the way
your correspondence had been handled. The court had a number of opportunities to
clarify the position for you and, in the absence of doing so, it caused you a lot of
frustration and inconvenience. While I am satisfied that the letters on file would have
been posted to you, it is my view that an alternative service method of the final case
stated should have been considered after your third request for a copy had been
received.

While I appreciate you were pursuing a complaint about the judiciary between 2014
and 2016, I do have to take into account the fact that you did not pursue the court for a
copy of the final case for over two years. I also appreciate the fact that you could not
pursue an appeal until the case had been stated by the magistrates court. However, I

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believe you could have contacted the High Court to explain the difficulties you were
having. In addition, I have not seen any reason why you could not have telephoned the
court to chase the final case stated document.

Overall, I believe an apology alone will not be sufficient in recognition of the poor level
of service that you received. I would therefore like to offer you the sum of 375 in
recognition of the poor handling of your application and subsequent correspondence. I
would also like to offer you a further sum of 375 to apologise for the frustration and
inconvenience that you experienced.

If you would like to accept the total sum of 750 please let me know in writing (by email
is fine) and I will arrange payment to you. If you would prefer a bank transfer please
provide me with your bank details. Please allow 20 working days for the money to
reach you after I have received your acceptance.

If you do not consider that my reply has dealt with your complaint satisfactorily, you can
ask a Member of Parliament to refer your case to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman (the Ombudsman). By law the Ombudsman can only look at complaints
about UK government departments and agencies if they have been referred by an MP.
Please fill out the form on the Ombudsmans website www.ombudsman.org.uk/making-
complaint first and then pass it to an MP. Please be aware that there are time limits for
the Ombudsman to look into complaints and they are investigated at the PHSOs
discretion. You can find your local MP at findyourmp.parliament.uk.

Yours sincerely

Richard Redgrave
Head of Customer Investigations

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