Following a period of consultation between the UK government and stakeholders, the Ministry of Justice in the UK has recently confirmed that compulsory mediation has been introduced in the UK for claims with a value up to £10,000.
The compulsory mediation scheme will initially apply to all money claims and will later apply to all standard civil claims.
Some of the notable aspects of the scheme are as follows:
- The mediation is free of charge;
- There are only very limited exceptions (e.g. claims involving the re-possession of property);
- Cases will be referred to mediation once a defence is filed;
- The mediation will be an hour long session conducted remotely; and
- Sanctions will be imposed on parties who do not participate in the mediation process.
One of the driving policies behind the scheme is to alleviate the strain on the courts' resources in light of increasing case volume in the UK courts.
Although there is nothing comparable currently proposed in this jurisdiction, the timing coincides with the recent publication by the Attorney General of the State Litigation Principles. The first principle outlined by the Attorney General is that the State will endeavour to avoid legal proceedings where possible and will consider in all cases alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes in line with the provisions of section 14 of the Mediation Act, 2017. The overarching intention being the resolution of claims promptly, efficiently and as inexpensively as possible.
We have already seen in recent years an increase in this jurisdiction in the number of cases being resolved outside the Court through mediation and other forms of ADR. Although the benefits of meditation and ADR are becoming more and more widely recognised and accepted, the use of mediation by parties to resolve their disputes is still entirely voluntary. We will watch with interest to see whether the Irish Government and relevant stakeholders look to the UK and consider the implementation of a similar compulsory mediation scheme in this jurisdiction.