Mediation to Become Compulsory for Small Claims Cases

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has recently stated that mediation will become compulsory for small claims cases,i.e., claims that do not exceed £10,000. Here, we will have a quick look at what exactly a mediation procedure entails, if it can provide any benefits to parties in a civil case, and the reasons why the MOJ decided to take such an initiative.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method used to resolve disputes outside of court proceedings. It involves a flexible and confidential process whereby an independent third party will help both parties to the dispute to reach an agreement by consent. The third party will be an impartial mediator who will be chosen to mediate the conflict between the parties to clarify their disagreements and find a resolution.

As for the process, the parties to a small claim will have their case referred to the HM Courts & Tribunals’ existing small claims mediation service and then be allocated individual mediation sessions for free. If a mutually agreed settlement is reached, it will be made legally binding for both parties. If not, then the case will be placed before a judge. Failing to mediate may result in having sanctions imposed by a judge.

What benefits can mediation provide?

  • In mediation, parties will be allowed to influence the agreement to end the disagreement and will not be compelled to accept any resolution they are unhappy with, unlike in court, where they must accept the judge’s decision.
  • Mediation is a cost-efficient and stress-free process, unlike court proceedings which tend to be formal and more expensive.
  • Mediation will assist parties in settling their conflict much more quickly than court proceedings and provide a hassle-free manner of resolving conflicts that can allow both parties to move past the issue sooner.
  • Since any decision made at the conclusion of a mediation would have been reached in mutual agreement, mediation can help maintain relationships between the parties to a dispute. As a result, there will not necessarily be a win-or-loss scenario because the result will serve to safeguard the interests of both parties.

Why did the MOJ decide to make mediation compulsory for small claims cases?

The decision was confirmed soon after statistics published by the MOJ revealed civil court delays to be ‘the worst on record’ since 2009, as stated by the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO). According to the MOJ’s most recent report, both small and fast/multi-track claims are taking longer than they did last year to reach trial. For example, small claims can take an average of one year to do so, while fast/multi-track claims can potentially take up to 18 months.

With mandatory mediation in place, a sizable portion of civil cases may be resolved outside of court, which will not only improve efficiency in the civil court systems but also assist in reducing the widespread delay by drastically reducing the backlog.

Justice Minister Lord Bellamy has stated that ‘By integrating mediation for small civil claims, we will create valuable court capacity, freeing up time for judges and reducing pressures on the courts.’

If you have any questions about a civil dispute you may be involved in, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss your matter further.

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