A leading judge, Lord Justice Jackson, has called for a “serious campaign” to teach lawyers and judges the benefits of mediation to settle disputes.
Since April 6th 2011, as a result of a Family Justice Review recommendation, divorcing couples are required to see if mediation is appropriate – although there is no compulsion to take it further – in a bid to reduce the strain on family courts and the number of contentious disputes which could be resolved by the parties themselves.
However, the architect of the civil litigation reforms, Lord Justice Jackson told a conference last week that whilst he is a keen advocate of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a way of driving down costs, he said he is not in favour of forcing parties to seek mediation; instead he supports a programme of education and information.
He said: “What is needed is not rule change, but culture change. I do not agree with the proposals made for sanctions, including sanctions against all parties.
“Nor do I agree with a proposal for compulsion to be exercised over judges. Judges must have discretion to give such case management directions as they deem appropriate.”
Lord Justice Jackson added that that the government has given courts further powers to encourage parties to use ADR and has told judges to consider, at every stage in proceedings, whether it is appropriate.
He also told the conference that feedback and evidence to his 2010 costs review had been that mediation and joint settlement meetings were likely to be a highly effective means of achieving satisfactory resolution. But it was clear that smaller businesses and the general public did not appreciate the benefits of mediation.