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Alternative Dispute Resolution

9 May 2007: Responsibility for information on this page has passed from DCA to the Ministry of Justice

Alternative dispute resolution, usually referred to as ADR, is the collective term for the ways that parties can settle civil disputes, with the help of an independent third party and without the need for a formal court hearing.

This section describes how alternative dispute resolution fits into the department for constitutional affairs proportionate dispute resolution strategy and what we are doing to promote it.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Interest in alternative dispute resolution has been growing steadily among the Judiciary and legal profession over the last decade. A significant push came from Lord Woolf's 1986 report 'Access to Justice', that identified the need for fair, speedy and proportionate resolution of disputes. Those principles lay at the heart of the Civil Procedure Rules, which came into force in April 1999. The civil procedure rules included references to ADR in rules of court and introduced pre-action protocols, with their emphasis on settlement, even before court proceedings are issued.

What is proportionate dispute resolution?

In the Department's five year strategy, the proportionate dispute resolution strategy is about much more than just alternative dispute resolution. Our vision for the proportionate dispute resolution is that people have access to the information and the range of services they need to understand their rights and responsibilities, avoid legal problems where possible, and where not, to resolve their disputes effectively and proportionately.

The Proportionate Dispute Resolution Team

This work to promote proportionate dispute resolution is being taken forward by the better dispute resolution team in the civil and family directorate of HMCS. They are responsible for the delivery of public service agreement 5 (PSA 5).

PSA 5 states that people should have access to the information and the range of services they need to understand their rights and responsibilities and avoid legal problems where possible. Where this is not possible they should be able to resolve their disputes effectively and proportionately. We aim to achieve earlier and more proportionate resolution of legal problems and disputes by:

Small claims pilots

Most people are, understandably, apprehensive about using courts. But there is relatively little information available to court users about alternate ways to settle a dispute. We therefore encouraging the development of alternatives to traditional court based methods for dispute-resolution. These are quicker, cheaper, less adversarial and provide a better outcome for the court user. As part of this process, we tested a number of schemes that target small claims cases. The evaluation reports on these schemes can be found below:

Small claims mediation at Manchester County Court

Small claims support service at Reading County Court

Small claims mediation at Exeter County Court

From the evaluation findings, the most successful scheme for settling small claims cases was found to be the model based at Manchester. The Manchester scheme has a trained in-house mediator provide a free service for court users giving parties the option of a mediation session, either by phone or face-to-face appointment, before the court hearing. Mediations normally last up to one hour. If the mediation is not successful, the case will progress to the hearing as normal.

Following the successful scheme at Manchester, the small claims mediation service is being expanded to other HMCS Areas in 2007/2008

Community mediation: dispute resolution service

This scheme will provide assistance primarily for pre-issue cases, although users with cases already in the court process will also be able to use the service. It will deliver a dispute resolution service that is available to all to access. Users will either be referred to the scheme by other advice providers or the local courts or walk-in off the street. An in-house mediation scheme will also be offered, providing an additional option for parties who wish to proceed to mediation. The scheme aims to prevent people becoming lost in the advice system and encouraging and raising awareness of alternative methods of dispute resolution.

The pilot was launched in October 2005. For further information please see the dispute resolution service website.

Toolkit for county court mediations schemes

We have developed a best practice toolkit for courts interested in setting up their own mediation schemes.

Using the toolkit:

The Master of the Rolls officially launched the toolkit at the designated civil judges conference on 9th June 2006.

Mediation week

To raise awareness of mediation and the opportunities it offers for resolving disputes, Her Majesty's Courts Service runs the annual Mediation Week campaign. Courts around England and Wales take part, arranging events to promote mediation. Activities held to date have included seminars for the Judiciary and court staff, mediation advice desks, community open days and presentations for local law students. The Law Society have also designed training seminars and awareness workshops, and advice agencies such as Community Legal Service Direct and Citizens' Advice Bureaux have publicised the benefits of mediation to their advisers. To find out more, contact us

National Mediation Helpline (NMH)
0845 60 30 809

The National Mediation Helpline (NMH) provides court users and the general public in England and Wales with access to information about mediation, and if requested can make the necessary arrangements for a low-cost mediation appointment. The service is accessed via phone (0845 60 30 809) or by the NMH website. The service is administered independently by an associate member of the Telephone Helplines Association and is available Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 6.00pm.

The NMH won the award for innovation at the 2006 Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution awards. For further information about the awards visit the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution website


| 6 December 2006 |
An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Court-based Mediation Processes in Non-Family Civil Proceedings at Exeter and Guildford County Courts
by Dr Sue Prince and Ms Sophie Belcher, University of Exeter

This report provides an analysis of the effectiveness of court-based mediation by comparing the impact of the mediation schemes in operation at Exeter County Court and Guildford County Court. These findings have informed HMCS strategy on the provision of mediation services as well as the publication of the Court Mediation Service Toolkit.

| 6 December 2006 |
Evaluation of the Birmingham court-based Civil (non-family) mediation scheme
by Lisa Webley, Pamela Abrams & Sylvie Bacquet, University of Westminster

This report provides an analysis of the effectiveness of court-based mediation at the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre. These findings have informed HMCS strategy on the provision of mediation services as well as the publication of the Court Mediation Service Toolkit.

| 21 April 2004 |

| 20 November 2003 |

| April 2002 |

| March 2002 |

| 23 March 2001 |

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1. The Lord Chancellor's Department was abolished in July 2003. Its functions, aims, and objectives (including the SR2002 PSA targets agreed with HM Treasury) were incorporated into the new Department for Constitutional Affairs.

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