The Ministry of Justice’s consultation document, “Increasing the use of mediation in the civil justice system,” outlines an approach for handling small claims disputes.
The objective is to alleviate pressure on courts and provide swifter justice by mandating mediation for small claims, typically those under £10,000. This initiative aims to increase the use of the Small Claims Mediation Service (SCMS), as currently, only 15-21% of eligible parties opt for it, despite a 55% success rate in settlements.
The document highlights that many court users are unfamiliar with the mediation process and its benefits. The proposed policy change will require parties in a defended small claims dispute to attempt mediation through SCMS before proceeding to a hearing. This approach is expected to expedite dispute resolution, reduce litigation costs, and free judicial resources for more complex cases.
The policy expects to reduce small claims hearings by 13-55%, freeing 3000-7000 judicial sitting days annually. This change also implies a potential decrease in legal representation for small claims, directing practitioners to adapt their services accordingly.
The consultation’s conclusions emphasise the potential for increased efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and satisfaction among parties involved in small claims disputes through mandatory mediation. The proposed policy is a strategic move to optimise judicial resources, benefiting the civil justice system and its users.