In our first ADR e-bulletin of this year we reported that the UK government had publicly committed to a greater use of mediation and other forms of ADR in the civil justice system. To coincide with an announcement to Parliament regarding the government's reaction to its consultation on the Jackson recommendations for reform of civil litigation funding and costs, a new consultation on reform of the civil justice system was announced on 29 March 2011. The consultation, entitled "Solving disputes in the county courts: creating a simpler, quicker and more proportionate system", makes the following proposals in relation to ADR:
- Introducing automatic referral to mediation in small claims cases
- Introducing automatic referral to mediation awareness sessions in higher-value cases
- Extending the provisions in the Mediation Directive (for cross-border disputes) to domestic disputes, particularly the provisions in Article 6 of the Mediation Directive - making mediated settlements enforceable by courts
The proposal to extend the provisions in the Mediation Directive to domestic disputes is novel, given that the Ministry of Justice confirmed when announcing measures to implement the Mediation Directive in England and Wales that it did not intend to do so. The Directive expressly states that it is intended to apply only to cross-border mediations, but that Member States may choose to extend the application of the Directive to domestic mediations. Some Member States chose to do so when putting in place measures to implement the Directive, including Italy and Germany. It will be interesting to monitor the outcome of the consultation and the ultimate approach of the Ministry of Justice.
The consultation documents can be viewed on the Ministry of Justice website. The deadline for responses to the consolation is 30 June 2011.