Both businesses and individuals will be helped to resolve legal disputes with free compulsory mediation under the new Government proposals. 


The proposal 


Ministers have published a blueprint for the major reforms, which aim to save people time, effort, and stress of often long legal disputes in a courtroom. Set out in a consultation, the blueprints display how meditation will be made compulsory for small claims up to £10,000. These could be disputes over services or goods. Individuals would be automatically referred for a free hour-long consultation with a professional mediator. This would be provided by the HM Courts and Tribunals Service. This is necessary before the case is able to progress to a hearing. 

During this session, both parties involved in the case will speak to a mediator separately. The mediator is able to determine whether there is any common ground between the two parties. If a solution is determined, both parties will agree for it to be made legally binding, via a settlement agreement. This whole process takes place over the phone. 


The possible results 


20,000 more cases could be settled outside of the courts with this new reform. Sparing the courts and individuals the time and cost of going through the cases. Freeing up the court capacity with up to 7,000 judicial sittings a day, becoming available. This would ease the pressure, and help to reduce the waiting times for more complex cases, where a hearing is absolutely essential. It is estimated that over 270,000 individuals will be able to access the free mediation services. 

Lord Bellamy, Justice Minister, stated that ‘Millions of businesses and people go through the civil courts every year. Of which, many do not need to. Mediation can be a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes, and under proposals will be free for claims up to £10,000. The reform could also help free up vital capacity, for the civil courts to deal with more complex cases quicker.’ 

This proposed reform follows a call for evidence, from the Government, that looked at how dispute resolution services such as mediation could be used better to resolve disagreements outside of the courts. The findings showed that mediation was in fact cheaper, quicker, and more flexible when finding solutions to resolve disputes. However, more needs to be done to encourage the use of mediation. 


About the author


Iain Bould

Iain heads Beeston Shenton’s commercial litigation department.

Iain has 30 years of experience in Commercial Debt Recovery and Insolvency fields having worked in both Private Practice and Industry. He has extensive experience working across all industry sectors and has particular expertise in working with Insolvency Practitioners in advising and recovering outstanding insolvent company ledgers. Iain brings a pragmatic and commercial approach.


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