by Tony Allen, Solicitor, Mediator and a Director of CEDR
Extracts from the Ministry of Justice’s statement on the Government’s Spending Review yesterday:
“The Treasury has announced a 23 per cent reduction in Ministry of Justice spending for the next four years. These savings will result in around £2 billion in savings by the department by 2014/15.
“Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: ‘Over the period of this spending settlement the Ministry of Justice will be transformed into a lean, transparent, and affordable department.’
“The Government is already consulting on proposals to close 157 under-utilised courts, and will reform the court system to provide a more efficient service, using mediation and alternatives to court where possible. This will provide effective access to justice, while ensuring that court is seen as a last resort, rather than the default option.”
Here are some of my headline thoughts on what this means for us all:
- Civil justice cannot be afforded at its present level and in the light of the cuts required of the Ministry of Justice
- Mediation is the primary form of non-adjudicative ADR in the UK, making available a supervised semi-formal process which can be deployed in particular to generate pre-issue settlement of cases: this in turn will take pressure off the courts and enable savings to be made in plant and personnel
- Because mediated settlements are negotiated in the shadow of the law, and access to the courts is never barred but at worst briefly delayed, this will not impair standards of access to justice
- The government can achieve greater use of mediation by systematic use in accordance with a revised stronger pledge on behalf of national and local government, better settlement authorities and processes and a commitment to enforcing its approach through seeking procedural precedents which back its approach up
- In particular this will be by requiring observance of obligations to consider and to implement use of mediation as the prime ADR process in all but any cases where it is obviously unsuited or obviously too premature or any other reason settlement is in principle impossible and resolution is only possible through a court ruling.