• April 13, 2024

MoJ anticipates a sevenfold mediation workload increase 2023

Making mediation mandatory for claims under £10,000 will raise the workload of HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s small claims mediation service by a factor of seven, according to a senior civil official.

During a Westminster Legal Policy Forum meeting, Sarah Rose, deputy director of dispute resolution at the Ministry of Justice, stated that an integrated system of mandatory conflict settlement was “at the forefront of our thinking.”

Rose emphasised that mandatory mediation was not intended to restrict parties’ access to the court or judicial judgement, but rather to “change a system based on adversarial activity into one that fosters communication and compromise.”

Disputes valued at less than £10,000 that are sent to HMCTS’s minor claims mediation programme for one hour of free telephone mediation will become a “standard element of core process,” according to the conference.

To extend and improve the small claims mediation programme, substantial resources would be necessary. Rose stated that mandatory mediation would raise the service’s workload by 700%. Thousands more individuals who would not have previously tried mediation will be supported to do so at no additional expense.

In the meanwhile, a Court of Appeal judge called for a shift in the attitude of the judiciary and legal community towards mediation. Lady Justice Asplin DBE stated during the conference that the judicial system was “in the middle of a major transformation” but that certain sectors were still in a “transitional period.”

Asplin, head of the judicial ADR liaison group, concurred with other speakers that terms such as required and compulsory mediation might be “trigger phrases” preventing people from understanding that alternative dispute resolution is a valid method.

She stated, “We have come a long way from the belief that the only legitimate method to settle a dispute is through an adversarial trial.” There are several approaches available to judges.

However, she pointed out that only 17,000 out of 247,000 civil cases were settled through mediation in the year ending 30 September 2022.

We must cement the advances that have already occurred and urge judges to think imaginatively if we want mediation to become mainstream. In numerous nations, like Canada, Australia, and Singapore, a seamless approach is a standard, and not only for lesser claims in some instances.

She stated that the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) recommendations for mandatory mediation must be complemented by increased investment in mediator training and profession-wide support. “Education and acceptance [of mediation] are crucial for the system to function and retain credibility. Only if the public, the profession, and the judiciary accept this shift can it be effective.

Asplin projected that approach changes will be felt not just in smaller claims, but also in larger claims. In order to do this, we must take proactive measures and avoid establishing a two-tier structure.

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