How to submit an eligible complaint

The PPO independently investigates complaints from people in prison, Young Offender Institutions, Secure Training Centres, immigration detention and on probation. This article explains how those in prison can submit an eligible complaint.

Before we can investigate your complaint, we must check that it is eligible. This means that:

  • The subject of your complaint must be within the remit of the PPO.
  • You must complete the full internal prison complaints process first.
  • You must send your complaint to the PPO in time.
  • You must submit a brief covering letter and all your COMP forms and replies.

Subject of your complaint

The PPO investigates complaints about the actions (or failures or refusals to act) and decisions of prison staff about your management, supervision, care and treatment while in prison. For example, we can investigate complaints about lost property, adjudications, decisions about matters such as categorisation, Release on Temporary Licence and Home Detention Curfew. We can also investigate complaints about the conduct of staff, including the use of force.

However, we do not investigate healthcare matters, issues with sentencing or decisions made by ministers, the police, the CPS or the Parole Board.

The internal complaints process

We can only investigate your complaint after you have completed the prison’s internal complaints process first. This is to allow the prison a chance to resolve your complaint. For most complaints, this means you must submit a COMP 1 complaint and if you are dissatisfied with the response, a COMP 1A appeal within seven days. For particularly serious or sensitive matters, you may submit a COMP 2 confidential access complaint to complain directly to the Governor or Director.

To submit an internal complaint, you should complete the relevant COMP form, which should be available on the wing, and put it in the wing complaints box.


You must complain to the PPO within three months after you receive the full reply (rather than any interim response) to your COMP 1A appeal or COMP 2 confidential access complaint. If you do not receive a response to your internal prison complaint within six weeks, you may then complain to the PPO.

Submitting your complaint to the PPO

If you remain dissatisfied after you have completed the internal prison complaints process, you can then complain directly to the PPO. Here are a series of things you must do when submitting your complaint:

  • You should write a brief covering letter, which explains your complaint and what you would like staff to do to resolve it.
  • You must submit a separate complaint for each different issue. We can only accept complaints about matters for which you have completed the internal prison complaints process.
  • You should include the key information that is relevant to your complaint, such as the date of an incident or decision, or a list of items of lost property which includes a description of each item.
  • You should keep your covering letter focused on the key points and avoid unnecessary background information. We understand that people have various levels of writing ability, so you may wish to ask an IMB member if you need help writing your letter.
  • You should send your covering letter, copies of your COMP forms and all replies to the PPO at the address below.
  • Please do not send us any original documents as we are currently unable to return them due to the working restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. You can mark the envelope with Rule 39 for confidential access. The prison will pay the postage cost.
  • On receipt of your complaint, we aim to write to you within 10 working days to let you know if we have accepted your complaint as eligible for investigation.

You can contact us on: 0845 010 7938 (voicemail only) or write to us at: Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Third Floor, 10 South Colonnade, London E14 4PU.

This article previously featured on Inside Time in October. You can read this here:

Alix Westwood, Complaints Investigator