Free mediation to free up court capacity
The government says tens of thousands of people will be able to access free mediation to resolve disputes away from court.
In an announcement on 25 July, the the government says it has "committed to fully integrate mediation as a key step in the court process for small civil claims valued up to £10,000, starting with specified money claims which make up 80% of small claims." The announcement follows a consultation launched last year.
In a press release, the government said:
Over 180,000 parties will be referred automatically to a free hour-long telephone session with a professional mediator provided by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) before their case can be progressed to a hearing.
It is estimated that greater use of mediation could positively impact up to 92,000 cases per year. This could free up to 5,000 sitting days a year, providing a substantial boost to court capacity and helping the government to reduce waiting time for the most complex cases.
Changes will also provide parties with the opportunity to resolve disputes out of court, reducing costs and removing some of the unnecessary stress court cases can bring.
Today’s news is the first step in the government’s journey towards simplifying processes for civil cases, a commitment that will see a reduction in lengthy, stressful, and often unnecessary, county court cases.
Justice Minister Lord Bellamy KC said: "A vast number of cases that go through the civil courts each year could be settled far more swiftly and with less stress through mediation. By integrating mediation for small civil claims we will create valuable court capacity, freeing up time for judges and reducing pressures on the courts."
To support these changes coming into effect, HMCTS will be expanding the Small Claims Mediation Service (SCMS) by recruiting and training additional mediators and updating necessary technology. The SCMS has been providing voluntary mediation since 2007, settling over half of claims referred to it each year within weeks of starting the case.
By integrating mediation for civil claims up to £10,000, the government is going further than the Civil Justice Council’s recommendation for claims up to £500, supporting even more people to reach a resolution away from court.