The future of mediation in Civil and Commercial courts?

As well as belonging to The Society of Mediators and having ongoing training from them, I am also an associate member of the Civil Mediation Council, who provide excellent support, and continued training. In a recent meeting I had with a member of the Civil Justice Council who advised the government on policy, I was told it looks likely that the proposed introduction of compulsory mediation for all small claims court cases will likely come into play this year. We don’t yet know whether people will have to mediate before they issue court proceedings or at the ‘Directions questionnaire’ early stage. However, just like in other countries such as America and Canada, those in charge are finally starting to realise the cost-savings of early mediation.

If it works in the Small claims court, it should hopefully be rolled out to higher and bigger value courts, though my source said this could take several years to happen. The main difficulty is how to regulate it and ensure those providing mediation can be any good. I would suggest being signed up to bodies like the Society of Mediators or Civil Mediation Council, is the answer. They rigorously check things like having insurance in place, proper in-date training, as well as access to peer-reviewing and ongoing support.

The current small claims mediation service is not fit for purpose. A very experienced mediator I know, told me last week, that he once sat in on a day of watching the court staff (not trained mediators) try to mediate cases, and if they managed to speak to one of the parties in a case, by phone that was seen as a success!

It is going to still be a long slog before most people even really understand what mediation is, but we will get there. The Society of Mediators and Civil Mediation Council are forces for good, and I’d say, certainly don’t use a mediator who is not signed up to at least one of these bodies.

Ben Tisdall

February 2024