The Minister for Justice has recently announced that the long awaited Mediation Bill will be published later this year. The aim of the proposed Bill is to allow for mediation as a viable and effective alternative to litigation for those involved in civil disputes. The purpose of the bill is to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings thereby reducing legal costs, speeding up the resolution of disputes and relieving the stress involved in court proceedings. The Bill will require solicitors and barristers to advise parties to disputes to consider utilising mediation as a means of resolving them. It is proposed that a solicitor will advise their client to consider using mediation as a means of resolving the dispute and provide the client with information concerning mediation services. The solicitor will also be required to provide an estimate of the legal costs likely to arise in the event of court proceedings, together with an estimate of legal costs if the client is unsuccessful in those proceedings. The Bill will also require that any person commencing civil proceedings must provide the court with a written statement confirming that their solicitor advised on the possible use of mediation.
The Bill will also allow a court to have regard to any unreasonable refusal by a party to consider using mediation where such a process had, in the court’s opinion, a reasonable prospect of success when awarding costs in those proceedings.
The Minister has indicated that she expects the Bill to become law before next year’s general election.