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Mediation by telephone aims to speed up claims
Although almost 80% of respondents were in favour of offering telephone mediation, many of those opposed were from the legal profession, including judges. The official ministry response noted that: "Six out of the seven judicial responses were firmly against the proposals, with most of their comments focusing on the use of telephone hearings.
"The biggest concern amongst the judiciary was that telephone hearings would significantly reduce the judge's ability to control and observe the parties/witnesses properly during the hearing."
Recommending the changes, the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, mentioned: "Without effective civil justice, businesses couldn't trade, individuals couldn't enforce their rights, and government couldn't fulfill its duties."
The mediation service has an accredited mediator speaking to both parties, usually by telephone, in an effort to settle the case. Mediation can take five and six weeks to arrange, compared with 13 to 14 weeks for a court hearing, the ministry said, with satisfaction rates for existing mediation services at 95%.
Other changes include:
- An increase in the small claims limit from £5,000 to £10,000, with a possible further increase to £15,000 following a fresh consultation.
- Non-personal injury claims for between £25,000 and £100,000 will no longer be heard in the high court, which will be reserved for "necessarily complex cases".
- Equity cases will only be referred there if the value exceeds £350,000, rather than £30,000 as at present, to reflect the rise in house prices since the level was last set in 1981, the ministry said.
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News story adapted from The Guardian, available at : http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/feb/09/small-claims-cases-mediation-ministry-of-justice