Small claims to be mediated by telephone in England and Wales
The Ministry of Justice has concluded a public consultation process with an announcement of plans to introduce telephone mediation sessions in England and Wales. The plan aims to take around 80,000 cases a year out of county court hearings, with all small claims automatically referred to a telephone-based service. Mediation will not be mandatory, and unsettled cases may eventually proceed to trial, but it is thought that the scheme will nevertheless be effective in securing quicker and cheaper settlements in the majority of cases.
A significant number of lawyers and judges were opposed to the scheme during the consultations, with concerns that telephone hearings would significantly reduce the judge's ability to control and observe the parties during the hearing.
Justice secretary, Ken Clarke, pointed out that many individuals and businesses feel that the civil justice system is too intimidating, time consuming and costly to be a practical tool in the resolution of disputes. "I want people to be able to resolve their disputes cheaply and simply through the courts' very successful mediation service, and I want judges freed up to make quick and effective judgments based on the facts of a case, without unnecessary legal complication."
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