Mandatory Mediation

As the Ministry of Justice prepares to roll out a new requirement to mediate in low-value money claims this month, it has also confirmed that it has not ruled out mandatory mediation for higher-value county court claims.

Speaking at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum conference on ‘next steps for dispute resolution’, MoJ head of dispute resolution policy Kim Wager pointed to the success of a Canadian mandatory mediation model.

Meanwhile, for money claims worth less than £10,000 filed on paper or through traditional online systems on or after 22 May 2024, the MoJ is piloting a requirement for parties to attend a free, one-hour telephone mediation arranged through the small claims mediation service (SCMS) before the claim can then proceed to court if no settlement is reached. This will be extended to all money claims below £10,000 later this year, including those submitted through the Online Civil Money Claims service.

'We concluded that the only way to move the dial on this and drive take-up would be to require it; to make mediation an integrated step in the resolution journey, which includes penalties for non-compliance' said Ms Wager. ‘The impact assessment that we published modelled a 15%-55% settlement rate… and we estimate this would free up between 1,400 and 5,200 sitting days; between 9% and 32% of all county court sitting days. So it would release a significant amount of resources for those cases that do need to go before a judge.’

Law Society head of justice Richard Miller said the Society opposed blanket mandatory mediation in principle but had ‘more sympathy for the concept’ in small claims, as unrepresented litigants may need guidance on how to avoid a full hearing. For represented parties, however, he said: ‘Proceedings are supposed to be a last resort, and that is how most solicitors use them. So directing forms of dispute resolution after the issue of proceedings risks duplicating effort and wasting costs.’

 

Oliver Kew

Published on 10/06/2024

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