According to a senior civil servant, the workload of HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s small claims mediation service will rise seven times if mediation becomes required for claims under £10,000.
The small slims mediation service of HMCTS, which offers free telephone mediation for claims under £10,000, would start to be a “standard part of core procedure,” the Legal Policy Forum conference informed.
“Compulsory mediation would increase the service’s workload by 700%”, Sarah Rose, deputy director of dispute resolution at the Ministry of Justice, told the conference. The goal of mandatory mediation, according to Rose, is “transforming a system predicated on adversarial conduct to one that promotes dialogue and compromise,” not to limit the parties’ access to the court or a judicial decision.
Lady Justice Asplin DBE, chair of the judicial ADR liaison committee, told the conference:
“There is a long way to go if mediation is to become maintstream… we have to consolidate the changes which have already taken place and encourage judges to think creatively. In many countries including Canada, Australia and Singapore a seamless approach is the norm and in some cases not just for smaller claims.
MoJ proposals for mandatory mediation needs to be accompanied by more investment in training mediators and getting the profession to back the changes. Education and acceptance [of mediation] is absolutely key to make the system work and maintain confidence. It can only be successful if the public, profession and judiciary embrace that change.”
“We have moved a long way from the attitude that the only real way to settle a dispute is in an adversarial trial,” Asplin added. “We have to take positive steps to achieve that and not to create a two-tier system.”