Resolve disputes out of court or face cost sanctions, think tank recommends

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Oct 18, 2017
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Sir Terence Etherton said that he wanted to “stimulate a debate between all stakeholders as to the nature of the problem and the possible practical solutions”

Judicial Office

Ministers, judges and lawyers have failed to convince the public of the merits of alternatives to court-based dispute resolution, a group of leading judges and lawyers have claimed.

Courts should do more to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) at the earlier stages of cases, with increased use of costs sanctions on parties that shun these options, according to the report from the Civil Justice Council, the advisory body established under the Civil Procedure Act 1997.

However, financial penalties are only seen as part of the answer, the group said. 

“ADR has failed to achieve the integral position in the civil justice system that was intended and expected for it,” said Bill Wood, QC, of Brick Court Chambers, who chairs the council working party that produced the report.

Wood and Sir Terence Etherton, the Master of the Rolls and the council’s overall chairman, said that they wanted to “stimulate a debate between all stakeholders as to the nature of the problem and the possible practical solutions, including the thorny issue of mandatory mediation”.

Wood said that Ministry of Justice moves to promote online courts and pilot local mediation schemes were positive advances.

But the report said that a minority of the working party favoured making ADR either a “condition of access to the court in the first place” or later as a condition of progress beyond the cost and case management hearing.

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