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Complaints management for the judicial order

Research project AG/GG/093 (Research action AG)

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Description :

Requested by the High Council for Justice and commissioned by the Belgian Science Policy (in the framework of the AGORA-program), a research project started on the first of January 2004, entitled: “Complaints management for the judicial order”. This research extends over 1 ½ years, and runs until July 2005. The research is carried out by the Research Group Social Analysis of Security (Ghent University), supervised by Prof. dr. Paul Ponsaers and Prof. Dr. Els Enhus. Researchers are Gudrun Vande Walle and Antoinette Verhage.

One of the tasks of the High Council is to deal with complaints by citizens regarding the functioning of the judicial order. Since 2000, the High Council has been offering the possibility for citizens to air their grievances regarding the judicial order. Annually, the High Council is expected to report on the way they deal with these grievances to the parliament. In other words, the High Council constitutes an important link between citizens and Justice and is able to contribute to an improvement of the faith the population has in Justice as a whole. By a thorough examination of these grievances it may be possible to gain some insight in the discord among citizens regarding the functioning of the judiciary.
Based on these insights, it may be more feasible to phrase structural recommendations for the benefit of the political authorities in order to improve their policy.

After evaluation of the first three years of dealing with complaints by the High Council, it became clear that the current procedure and registration of complaints is not sufficient and does not answer to the initial goals. The didactic effect with respect to the judiciary appears to be limited and the way the High Council deals with complaints can even be counterproductive in some cases, as they are faced with the obligation to disqualify many complaints. Therefore, the High Council made an appeal, as part of the AGORA-program, to optimize the current procedure and registration. In addition to this optimization, the High Council also intends to professionalize the handling of complaints by the courts and public prosecutor’s offices.

The goal of this research is therefore threefold: firstly, a complaints procedure needs to be developed for the courts and public prosecutors offices, accompanied by the improvement of the current procedure of the High Council. Secondly, a system will be developed to register these complaints on the level of the courts and public prosecutor’s offices on the one hand, and on the level of the High Council on the other hand. Finally, a model for reporting has to be worked out, on the basis of which the High Council and the judicial order can make their annual reports.

The methodology that will be applied is mainly qualitative: interviews (with members of the judicial order but also with other ‘ombuds’ services/services that deal with complaints) and file analyses should allow us to make a clear inventory of the current practices and opinions. Based on these empirical results, a model for the dealing with complaints (for both levels) can be introduced, after which pilot projects can test these new procedures and registrations in practice. After the evaluation of these pilots, the model can be refined, with the ultimate goal to use this model in the actual practice of all judicial districts.

Documentation :

Gestion des plaintes au sein de l’Ordre Judiciaire : résumé    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2005 (SP1538)
[To download

Klachtenmanagement binnen de rechterlijke orde : samenvatting    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2005 (SP1539)
[To download

Complaints management for the judicial order : summary    Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2005 (SP1540)
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Een model van klachtenafhandeling binnen de rechterlijke orde : eindrapport    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2006 (SP1574)
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Vers un modèle de traitement des plaintes au sein de l'ordre judiciaire : rapport final    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2006 (SP1575)
[To download

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