Section 1: Introduction
- The English Province of the Order of Preachers (EPOP) seeks to uphold respect for the dignity of all people. To achieve this the English Province encourages open communication and listens seriously to complaints. These procedures lay out the mechanisms the English Province has in place for the resolution of complaints.
- The EPOP welcomes complaints being raised from any individual, group of individuals, or organisation who wants to make it aware of concerns about EPOP’s workforce (post-holders, paid employees, volunteers or third-party contractors working on its behalf) or activities of an organisation EPOP works with, for example, partner organisations who implement its programmes. EPOP also welcomes complaints being raised by individuals on behalf of another person, if asked to do so for reasons such as a fear of repercussions, safety concerns or language barriers.
- This procedure is intended for complaints made by parishioners, members of the public or organisations with whom the EPOP, its Trustees, friars, employees or volunteers come into contact with, in the course of their work.
- This policy is not intended for the EPOP’s friars or employees. These should use other relevant policies.
- If the complaint relates to a safeguarding issue these should be raised under safeguarding procedures. These are available at https://www.catholicsafeguarding.org.uk/.
- This procedure does not cover Blackfriars Hall, which has its own complaints procedure.
- Complaints may be resolved through either an informal procedure (see section 2 below) or by a formal procedure (see section 3 below). In order to determine which of these paths to take, complaints may initially be discussed with: the local Prior/Superior of the Dominican Community; the local Dominican parish priest or chaplain; the Prior Provincial or for complaints against the Prior Provincial the Master of the Order. For complaints which concern a parish or chaplaincy complaints may be directed to the local bishop.
- If the complaint concerns the employment of a Dominican friar by a third party (for example, a prison or hospital chaplaincy) then the complaint should be directed to the friar’s employer.
Section 2: Informal Procedure
- If the complainant bringing the complaint decides to initially pursue an informal procedure they should normally bring the complaint to the relevant office holder: the local Prior/Superior of the Dominican Community; the local Dominican parish priest or chaplain; the Prior Provincial or for complaints against the Prior Provincial the Master of the Order.
- The relevant officer will arrange a meeting with the person bringing the complaint. In this meeting the officer will offer the complainant sympathetic and confidential (subject to the normal duties of care) advice and attempt to find a remedy for the complaint or a reconciliation (in cases where relations have broken down between individuals, and the complainant does not object to this course). The outcome of this meeting is to be recorded in a written response to the complainant (including when the complainant decides to withdraw the complaint).
Section 3: Formal Procedure
- If the complainant decides to pursue a formal procedure, the complaint should be made in writing to the Prior Provincial or in the Prior Provincial’s absence the Socius to the Provincial, or for complaints against the Prior Provincial the Master of the Order. In most cases a formal procedure will only be used when a resolution through an informal procedure has not brought about a resolution. If the complainant immediately pursues a formal procedure the Prior Provincial may refer the complainant back to an informal procedure.
- The Prior Provincial will determine the appropriate response to the formal complaint and if necessary convene a panel to hear the complaint consisting of three members of the Provincial Council who, so far as is practicable, will not have been involved in the case. All members of the panel will observe confidentiality in regard to the case.
- The complainant may take advice in advance of the hearing and should be adequately represented at the hearing itself, being given the chance either to make a written submission, or, if they prefer, to appear before the committee. The complainant may, in the latter case, be accompanied by a representative of their choice. Along with the complainant and their representative, the Prior Provincial and any member of staff involved in the presentation of the case against will withdraw before a decision is made. The committee’s written decision will include all the relevant facts. A copy of it will be given to the complainant.
Section 4: Persistent, Serial and Vexatious Complaints
- This Complaints Policy serves to address genuine complaints. However, we are mindful that whilst this policy has been established in good faith, there can be rare occasions when complainants may wish to use our procedures inappropriately and/or in ways that are designed to cause distress, disruption, or nuisance.
- Where complainants are persistent with their complaints despite having exhausted the stages set out in this policy, we reserve the right to refuse to engage in further correspondence or other communications with the complainant. In addition to refusing to deal with a persistent complainant, we reserve the right to reject a vexatious complaint.
- Vexatious complaints may be characterised as (but are not limited to) the following:
- complaints which are obsessive, persistent, harassing, prolific, repetitious;
- insistence upon pursuing unmeritorious complaints and/or unrealistic outcomes beyond all reason;
- insistence upon pursuing meritorious complaints in an unreasonable manner;
- complaints which are designed to cause disruption or annoyance; and/or
- demands for redress that lack any serious purpose or value.
- We will consider each complaint on a case by case basis before determining that it is vexatious. We will inform complainants if we believe their actions are in contravention of this policy and, if appropriate, give them an opportunity to change their conduct and/or the terms under which they seek to pursue their complaint.
- We will be mindful of the following when deciding whether a complaint is vexatious and, if any of these features are present in an individual case, it will weigh more heavily in favour of deciding to refuse to engage any further with the complainant:
- communications through various means are often or consistently aggressive and abusive;
- insulting personal comments, aggression or threats to take action or cause harm are targeted against individuals; and/or
- there is clear reason to believe that the complainant is contacting us with the intention to cause disruption or inconvenience.
- Where we have determined that a complaint, or an element of a complaint, is vexatious we will confirm that we are not dealing with the complaint on that basis and will set out the reason for our determination.
- If a vexatious complainant persists with their allegations despite a determination having been made under this section of our Complaints Policy, the complainant may be engaging in a course of conduct that amounts to harassment. We reserve the right to refer such matters to the Police and/or our legal advisors in order to consider whether the provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 have been triggered and/or there has been any other contravention of the law.