Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Developing policy on Alternative Dispute Resolution

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Many people acknowledge that if disputes can be resolved in ways that do not involve a hearing in court, this can be more effective and flexible than litigation. But use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has been constrained by the fact that, for it to take place, both parties need to accept that this would be the preferable way forward. There has been a reluctance to requires parties to use ADR.

In July 2021, the Civil Justice Council published an important report in which it argued that it would not be unlawful for the use of ADR to be made mandatory.

In August, 2021, the Ministry of Justice published a Call for Evidence seeking information about the use of ADR to resolve family, business and other civil disputes away from the courts. The paper makes clear that, in a post-Covid world, it is important to rethink some of the ways in which dispute resolution and how they should be changed to improve access to justice, reduce cost, and deliver fairer outcomes.

Experience from a number of other countries suggests that an element of compulsion in the use of ADR is important in achieving broader acceptance of the use of ADR.

It is unlikely that detailed policy initiatives will be announced for some time. But it seems to me that policy makers and the senior judiciary are working together to create a more postitive context within which ADR will become a central feature of the dispute resolution landscape.

The Civil Justice Council’s Report is at https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/mandatory-alternative-dispute-resolution-is-lawful-and-should-be-encouraged/.

The Ministry of Justice’s Call for Evidence is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/views-sought-on-dispute-resolution-vision. Submissions are sought by the end of October 2021.

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