The government response has been published to its consultation on “Solving disputes in the County Courts: creating a simpler, quicker and more proportionate system”, which asked for views on compulsory mediation information sessions, automatic referral to mediation, and extension of the provisions in the Mediation Directive to domestic disputes.
The proposals the government intends to take forward relating to ADR include introducing automatic referral to mediation for all small claims (the limit for which is to be increased from £5,000, initially to £10,000). The government does not plan to take forward the proposal to introduce compulsory mediation information sessions for higher value claims. However it considers that there remains a lack of knowledge about the use of ADR and mediation as a mechanism for resolving disputes, and therefore proposes to assess the effectiveness of mediation information delivered by various means (including telephone, face-to-face, web and hard copy formats) at various stages of the pre and post issue process. The response also states that the Ministry of Justice will work with the Law Society to better reinforce the role of the legal profession to explain to clients whether ADR may be more appropriate than litigation, and with the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) to make the accreditation process for mediation providers more robust, together with possible measures to enable individual mediators to also be accredited.
The government does not intend to take forward plans to extend the provisions of the Mediation Directive, which apply to cross-border mediations, to domestic mediations. The response states that it is too soon to do so given that the Mediation Directive only came into force in May 2011, and that “a methodical review of the current domestic law, in consultation with the mediation and legal profession, is required to determine what types of provisions, if any, are needed”.
Other proposals the government intends to take forward include:
- Establishing a single county court, operating as a single national entity for England and Wales, to replace the current county court structure;
- Increasing the financial threshold for non-personal injury claims to be commenced in the High Court from £25,000 to £100,000;
- Giving parties in low value small claims cases the opportunity to choose whether their claim is determined on paper, if the judge agrees that the case is appropriate; and
- Various measures aimed at improving the process for enforcement of judgments.