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 extenstion of the provisions in the Mediation Directive to domestic disputes.
The government intends to take forward proposals including the introduction of automatic referral to mediation for all small claims (the limit for which is to be increased from £5,000, initially to £10,000), but not 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 to make the accreditation process for mediation providers more robust.
Also in its response, the government has confirmed that it does not intend to take forward plans to extend the provisions of Directive 2008/52/EC (the Mediation Directive) (which apply only to cross-border mediations) to domestic mediations. In the government’s view it is too soon to do so given that the Mediation Directive only came into force in May 2011. The response adds 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”. No doubt, the government will watch developments in jurisdictions which have chosen to extend the Mediation Directive to domestic mediations (like Spain) with interest.