A major call for evidence was launched by the Government at the beginning of August, seeking views on the best ways to settle family, business and other civil disputes away from the court room.
Partner Leesa Clemow says, “With years of experience as a lawyer, I know the benefits of finding amicable agreements early to help parties move on constructively”.
Responses will shape future reforms to civil, family and administrative justice, with Ministers determined to help more people resolve their issues without the stress and cost of a court case. It will examine whether new technologies, as well as services such as mediation and conciliation, could provide smarter and less adversarial routes for finding resolutions.
Evidence is being gathered from a range of interested parties including the judiciary, legal profession, mediators and other conflict resolvers, academics, and the advice sector. It will provide the basis for future reforms later in this parliament.
Litigation will always remain as an option open to everyone, and some cases will inevitably require people to go to court. But the Government wants people to have a greater range of options to settle disagreements proactively and constructively – via routes most appropriate for their case.
It comes as research shows that more than 70% of those using mediation services will resolve their issues outside of a courtroom. In 2019, only 3% of the two million civil proceedings issued went to trial, showing most claims can be resolved without the need for a judgment.
In one case, mediators were able to settle a dispute between two sisters who disagreed over what to do with a £1m flat left to them in their mother’s will. Mutual distrust between the two meant that face-to-face mediation risked making the situation worse. One wanted to sell the property, and the other wanted to refurbish and let it out. A qualified mediator was able to meet each sister separately and forge a path towards a suitable settlement, with one of the sisters paying the other half of the value of the flat.
In another case, a mediator settled the differences between a separated couple who could not agree on child arrangements. The father had not seen his nine-year-old daughter for three months, despite previously having regular contact. Insisting on taking the case to court, the mother and father were persuaded to have a mediation session before going to a judge. This support helped the couple to reach an agreement – setting the conditions for the father to see his daughter again.