In recent times, there has been a notable surge in the use of mediation within the civil justice system. However, a recent proposition by the government has sparked significant debate within legal circles, raising concerns about its potential implications.

The Law society response

The Law Society, a prominent voice in legal matters, has responded to government proposals advocating for the compulsory implementation of mediation in most civil small claims, particularly those valued at £10,000 or less. While the intention behind these proposals is to streamline the resolution process and alleviate the burden on courts, the Law Society has voiced apprehensions regarding its broader ramifications.

Under the current proposals, all defended small claims would undergo an automatic 28-day stay and be referred to the Small Claims Mediation Service for a free appointment with a mediator trained by the court. Notably, participation in this mediation process would be mandatory, irrespective of the parties’ willingness to engage. The Ministry of Justice sought the Law Society’s perspective on potential exemptions for specific case types or individual circumstances, as well as the need for enhanced regulation or accreditation within the civil mediation sector.

The Law Society’s Standpoint

In response, the Law Society expressed its reservations concerning the compulsory nature of mediation, particularly in cases where it may prove detrimental to one or both parties or impede access to justice. They underscored the importance of preserving individuals’ autonomy in choosing the most suitable dispute resolution mechanisms.

Moreover, the Law Society cautioned against the creation of a potential two-tier system within the justice framework, where certain parties could access justice comprehensively, while others might only obtain the means to conclude a dispute, possibly without achieving a fair resolution.

Alternative Strategies

Instead of mandating mediation, the Law Society advocated for a strategy focused on effective signposting and educational initiatives to encourage voluntary mediation in appropriate cases and at the opportune juncture. By empowering individuals with knowledge and resources, they believe it’s possible to foster a culture of alternative dispute resolution without compromising fundamental principles of justice.

The Future Landscape

As the government deliberates on the feedback provided by the Law Society, the legal community awaits further developments with keen interest. The outcome of this deliberation will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of civil dispute resolution in the UK, influencing access to justice for countless individuals.

In conclusion, while the push towards greater mediation utilisation in the civil justice system is commendable, it’s essential to tread cautiously to ensure that any reforms uphold the principles of fairness, accessibility, and individual rights within the legal framework. Only through thoughtful consideration and collaboration can we navigate the path towards a more equitable and efficient justice system for all.

About the author

Chloe Edwards – Associate (CEDR Mediator)

Chloe is a Solicitor and CEDR accredited Commercial Mediator in Norwich and Norfolk . Her qualification as CEDR Mediator not only permits her to accept mediation appointments from either in person or legally represented parties on a broad range of disputes, but also marks her out as a Solicitor well versed in recognising the importance of pragmatic and proportionate advice required for resolving disputes, whether for private individuals or corporate clients.

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