The government issued a call for evidence today on how to settle disputes away from court, in a bid to put technology and dispute resolution ‘at the heart of the future system’.
Over the next eight weeks, the Ministry of Justice will seek stakeholder views on the best ways to settle family, business and other civil disputes without resorting to litigation. Responses are expected to shape future reforms to civil, family and administrative justice.
The ministry defended the eight-week time limit - over the summer vacation - by saying that the exercise is a call for evidence about how the system is currently working and that any proposals would be subject to further scrutiny.
Robert Buckland, lord chancellor, said: ‘We want the public, families and businesses to be able to resolve disputes easily and with as little stress as possible – avoiding often lengthy and costly court battles. That is why I am delighted to launch this important call for evidence which will help shape our plans to harness new technologies and ensure more people can get resolutions in ways that work for them.’
Justice minister Lord Wolfson added: ‘Too often the courts aren’t the best means for reaching such outcomes. That is why we want to improve the range of options available to people to resolve their issues, ensuring less adversarial routes are considered the norm rather than the alternative.’
The government cited research suggesting that more than 70% of those using mediation services will resolve their issues outside of a courtroom. It added that only 3% of the two million civil proceedings issued went to trial in 2019, ‘showing the vast majority of claims can be resolved without the need for a judgment’.
In March, the government announced that parties will be given £500 vouchers to resolve family disputes outside of court. The vouchers are part of a £1m scheme which the government hopes will bolster the use of mediation after referrals nosedived following the 2013 legal aid cut.
The MoJ's call for evidence closes on 30 September.