Dispute Resolution: Mediation a must for small claims up to £10,000
All civil claims up to £10,000 will be referred to compulsory mediation from now on, the Ministry of Justice has announced.
The move is a bid to resolve more disputes outside the courtroom therefore reducing stress and costs for the parties involved.
It is also thought greater use of mediation could boost court capacity by freeing up 5,000 court sittings a year and enabling waiting times for more complex cases.
Justice minister Lord Bellamy says: “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 into small civil claims, we will create valuable court capacity, freeing up time for judges and reducing pressure on the courts.”
What kind of cases will be referred to mediation under the new rules?
Initially, compulsory mediation will be introduced for what’s known as specified money claims which currently make up 80% of all small claims. This includes:
- Drivers being sued over parking fines.
- Businesses recovering debts from customers.
- Challenging faulty goods when you have already paid.
It will eventually be rolled out to cover all claims issued under the standard part 7 procedure of the Civil Procedure Rules.
How will the new compulsory mediation service work?
Once a defence is filed and the case allocated to the small claims track, you will be automatically referred for a free hour-long mediation phone session with a professional HM Courts and Tribunals Service mediator.
If a settlement is agreed a legally binding formal agreement will be registered with the court. If it’s not, a judge will hear the dispute.
Do I have to accept the mediation offer for my small claims civil case?
It is classed as compulsory and judges will be able to impose sanctions on parties who do not comply with the requirement to mediate.
Law Society president, Lubna Shuja, has expressed some reservations about this.
“…There may be certain types of small claims where mediation is not suitable,” she says. “We are concerned that by not allowing exemptions to this new process, the government may be increasing unnecessary bureaucracy and cost, ultimately hindering the ability of some parties to access justice. This must be closely monitored.”
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