Compulsory small claims mediation to go live next month

Mediation: MoJ hopes to free up as many as 5,000 sitting days

Mediation will become mandatory in some money disputes worth less than £10,000 filed from 22 May, it has emerged.

The free one-hour telephone mediation will initially apply to claims brought on paper or through HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) traditional online systems.

The new policy will be extended later this year to cover sub-£10,000 claims submitted through the Online Civil Money Claims service.

It will apply to all small claims issued under the standard part 7 procedure – with no exemptions – but not claims issued under non-standard procedures, such as possessions claims.

Mediators will not be asked to say whether parties had engaged adequately in the process – attendance will be all that is needed to meet the obligation.

The small claims mediation service has been available as an option since 2007 and HMCTS said it had bolstered the service’s ranks with 39 extra mediators to meet the increase in appointments.

“The team is already working to identify cases which may benefit from mediation and offering appointments to all parties,” according to a blog by Rosemary Rand, HMCTS’s deputy director and service owner for civil, and Chris Kane, head of the small claims mediation service.

They added: “We currently aim for appointments to take place within 28 days of a case being referred to our mediation service, whereas in some instances, it can take many weeks for a case to be heard in a county court.”

The most recent Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures, for the last quarter of 2023, show that it took an average of 55.8 weeks between a small claim being issued and the claim going to trial, 4.3 weeks longer than the same period in 2022 and the highest since it began publishing figures in 2009. These figures do not include cases resolved through mediation.

There is regional variation, with longer waiting times experienced in London and the South-East.

Following a 2022 consultation, the MoJ decided last July to press ahead with compulsory small claims mediation, starting with specified money claims – which represent 80% of small claims – and moving on at a later date to personal injury and unspecified money claims.

It estimated that 92,000 cases annually would be referred automatically to mediation, potentially freeing up 5,000 sitting days a year.

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