The Government has recently launched a consultation on proposals that would see mediation made compulsory for civil claims of up to £10,000, such as disputes over goods and services. If adopted, the reforms would make it compulsory for disputing parties to 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.
The Government expects that up to 20,000 extra cases every year could be settled away from court under these proposals which would free up an estimated 7,000 judicial sitting days to increase capacity and reduce waiting times for more complex cases which require a hearing.
Under the compulsory mediation scheme, the parties involved will speak separately to the mediator to see if there is common ground between them. If a solution is brokered, both parties will agree for it to be made legally binding through a settlement agreement.
Acorn RPC has always supported alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, but for the scheme to be successful it is vital for it to be appropriately funded and for there to be a sufficient number of well trained mediators that are capable of offering a professional and consistent mediation service. It would also be prudent for there to be independent regulatory oversight of mediators from a suitable professional body. The obvious candidate for that task is the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). CIArb is an international organisation headquartered in London and has an established reputation as a provider of rigorous training and assessment of arbitrators, mediators and other dispute resolvers. Alongside his RICS membership, Mark Sanders is a Fellow of the CIArb.
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