Many complaints about human rights in Britain never reach a court. Some public authorities can and do respond positively when asked to review their decisions or actions in light of their responsibilities under the Human Rights Act.
It’s often best to explore other options before considering legal action. There are informal and formal methods that give a public authority the chance to improve the way they treat you.
But don’t forget, whatever action you take, do it early. If you have to rely on legal action at some point, there are strict time limits for doing this. See Exercising your human rights.
An informal complaint could be a telephone call or face-to-face conversation. It’s a good idea to include the following points in your discussion:
- a short description of what happened
- the specific human right or rights breached
- the names and job titles of the people involved
- the date and time of the incident
- a description of how the incident affected you
- what you want the organisation to do now - for example, review a decision or offer a better service, and
- when you expect a reply.
Keep a record of the conversation and make a note of the date. It’s also a good idea to follow up the conversation with a letter recording what was discussed.
If an informal approach doesn’t work, you can make a formal complaint. Most public authorities have their own complaints procedures. If there is one, you should usually follow it (but bear in mind the strict time limits for taking a case to court if you are considering doing so).
If there’s no complaints procedure, you should complain in writing and include the points listed above under ‘How do I make an informal complaint’, along with your name and contact details.
If an adviser is helping you with the complaint and you want them to advocate on your behalf, include their name and contact details in your written complaint. You should also attach a letter of authorisation, signed by you, to explain that the adviser is acting for you. Keep a copy of the complaint letter or email.
Last updated: 19 Feb 2020