The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will add £10m to the UK’s publicly funded mediation budget next year as part of an effort to promote the use of mediation over litigation.
According to the MoJ’s 2010-11 annual report, an extra £10m will be added to the mediation budget as of April 2012, taking the total allocated amount to £24m. The MoJ has spent an annual total of £14m on publicly funded mediation every year since 2008.
An MoJ spokesperson said: “Research shows that mediation can cost a quarter of the price and take a quarter of the time of going to court.
“Data from legal aid cases show the average cost per client is £535 compared to £2,823, and that the average time for a mediated case to be completed is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases. With two thirds of publicly funded mediation already resulting in full agreement, it can ensure better results for families too.”
New legislation was introduced in April this year which requires that separating spouses who are contesting the terms of their divorce must first attend a mediation awareness session before going to court. The move – part of an effort by the MoJ to reduce the backlog of cases and cut court costs – mirrors the system already in place for separating couples granted legal aid.
Withers family practice head Julian Lipson said: “The idea of people being encouraged to mediate is a good one and it is very good for some cases, but one needs to be realistic and say that it is not for all. Some cases are too complicated for mediation, and in others the parties’ inequality of position/ability makes it little use.”
Other details contained in the MoJ’s annual report include the statistic that the number of civil proceedings in 2010-11 was down 9% on 2009-10, while the number of civil proceedings where a small claims hearing or fast/multi-track trial took place were down 15% and 4% respectively.