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A lot of people have heard about mediation, some people have tried it with varying degrees of success. There are now television programmes about it. Most people consider mediation when it comes to divorce. However mediation is actively encouraged by the court for people with any other type of dispute. Mediation for civil matters in Devon was actively practised between 2002 and 2008 in the Small Claims Court in the Exeter County Court with a great deal of success.
Mediation is simply a method of helping people to see if they can negotiate a resolution whatever it is that they are in dispute about - an animal, a product, or even their property rights.
In July 2002, the first mediation took place. Two people were in dispute concerning some building work. The mediator tried to persuade the parties to agree and much to his surprise, it worked, an agreement was reached and the parties left the court and walked down through the car park talking to each other and it is believed one party gave the other one a lift home.
More than half of the cases settled on that first day and the Judge pronounced the scheme a success and from then until March of 2008, Devon & Somerset Law Society members attended Exeter County Court probably two or three times a month on a rota and mediate in five or six cases each time.
The Scheme was closed down by the Ministry of Justice, by then the scheme had mediated in over a thousand cases and over six hundred of them had settled.
What was clear was that mediations undertaken by local mediators stood an infinitely better chance of success than those manned by a telephone service.
Unfortunately, things have got worse. The Exeter Judges have found that their work load has increased significantly following the increase in the small claims limit asked whether DASLS would be prepared to reinstate the small claims scheme. The Ministry of Justice unfortunately did not agree.
There are now even greater plans to increase the Small Claims limit and make a large part of our justice system an online process.
Lord Justice Briggs’ report published on the 17th July recommended that in those courts where there had previously been mediation schemes such schemes should be revived.
It is not often that you can say that Devon shows the way but on this occasion we can say we did.
If anyone has a dispute it is always worthwhile considering mediation. DASLS would take this opportunity to remind the general public that there are local, experienced, affordable mediators to assist their own local community.