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In Place of Strife

The Mediation Chambers

The Ministry of Justice ditches plans for major reform of ADR in the County Court.

Saturday, 11th February 2012

In March 2011, the Government consulted on a proposed range of changes to the County Court, including mandatory settlement attempts. On 9 February 2012, following the consultation, the Government announced the measures it will implement to ensure that "individuals and businesses will find it cheaper, quicker and less daunting to resolve their disputes in civil courts …"

Time will tell whether this will be achieved although the measures which will come in, as to ADR at least, suggest a softly, softly approach over radical reform.

As to the ADR reforms originally proposed:

  • abandonment of mandatory pre-action directions for money claims under £100,000 (which would have imposed compulsory settlement attempts, such as mediation);

  • abandonment of mandatory mediation information and assessment sessions (at allocation stage) for fast and multi track cases up to £100,000;

  • introduction of automatic referral to a mediator of cases worth up to £5,000 (this will be increased to £10,000 or £15,000 in due course).

Outside the field of ADR, there will be several changes:

  • a single county court: all geographical and jurisdictional boundaries to be removed and all claims handled electronically;

  • small claims ceiling: increase to £10,000 (and possibly £15,000, subject to evaluation);

  • County Court equity claims limit: increase from £30,000 to £350,000;

  • bar to issuing non PI claims in the High Court: threshold increase from £25,000 to £100,000;

  • regime for enforcement of court orders to be streamlined.

Possible future changes, subject to evaluation:

  • increase in the financial limit of the RTA PI scheme and extending the scheme to employers’ and public liability and low value clinical negligence claims;

  • extension to the fixed recoverable costs regime.

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