Independent Assessor’s report praises PPS complaints system

Publication date:

The latest report by the Independent Assessor of Complaints for the Public Prosecution Service (IAC), Ms Sarah Havlin, has now been published.

The report, which covers the 2022/23 financial year, examines how the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) manages its complaints system. The report praises the PPS’s complaint handling arrangements and the organisation’s willingness to improve based on the learning from complaints. 

Independent from the PPS, Ms Havlin’s role is to investigate and report on complaints once they have been responded to fully under the internal stages of the PPS complaints process. As part of her remit, she also conducts an evaluation of the complaint process and carries out a performance audit.

She said: " My overall opinion of the PPS complaint process, having thoroughly reviewed its performance this year, is that the complaint system has consistently performed to a high standard and is a model of best practice in both complaint management and as a tool of continuous improvement. 

“In terms of organisational performance management, PPS leadership approaches complaints as containing vital intelligence and levers for change as part of its overall quality assurance strategy.

In all cases assessed and audited this year, I have found that PPS actively listens to all complaints equally, provides a complaint system that is well structured and enables the voice of the complainant to be heard. 

“I have also found an open and confident organisation in which its people are open and courageous in accepting error and conceding where things could have been done differently.” 

Of the 44,687 files that were submitted to the PPS in the reporting period, a total of 58 complaints were received which represents only 0.1% of cases. 

In her report the Independent Assessor noted that some complaints to the PPS stem from the difficulties victims experience in navigating the criminal justice system. 

She said:  “Complaints about PPS are often rooted in the distress caused by the intimidating and highly emotional experience of going through the criminal justice system. Some complaints made have a wider focus on the structure and culture of the entire justice system – from police to courts to sentencing outcomes. Much of this is not within the gift of PPS to change alone, nor is it within my remit to assess. 

“However, I have noted this year that new developments have shown that PPS is up for the difficult conversations about its role in improving the overall systemic experience, particularly for victims of crime with its delivery partners including its engagement with the newly created office of the Victims of Crime Commissioner (VOCC).”

The IAC has made four recommendations for improvement in this year’s report. This includes the need for the Service to develop its own ‘Complaint Standards’, explaining matters such as the behaviours expected of PPS staff and complainants.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, in welcoming the publication of the report said: “I welcome the positive comments from the Independent Assessor regarding our performance, and the fact that the improvements and changes we have made on the back of earlier recommendations are bearing fruit. Importantly, the report highlights our willingness to learn from complaints, using the complaint scheme as a driver for organisational learning and as part of our overall quality assurance process.

“I would like to thank the Independent Assessor for her report, and for the major contribution she continues to make in assuring the effectiveness of these arrangements.”



Notes to Editors

1. The full report can be found on the PPS website.

2. For further information on how to make a complaint about the service provided, please read the guidance and key information booklet in the complaints section of our website