Legal system should resolve disputes outside the court, says Justice Minister

Speaking at the Family Mediators Association conference in London, Justice Minister Simon Hughes had said that it is important that people try and settle their disputes outside of courts, as change to the family law system continue to change the nature of the profession.

Mr Hughes said that mediation was working and it was “often quicker and cheaper” and led “to more amicable outcomes” for couples trying to resolve disputes, as they were more involved in the process of agreement.

“Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that more people make use of it, rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court,” said Mr Hughes. “It is not the sign of a civilised family justice system to have more and more people litigating in court whether with lawyers alongside them or not.

“A civilised system is to have more people resolving disputes away from the often confrontational atmosphere of the courtroom.”

During his speech he pledged to continue supporting services like mediation through legal aid funding and promotional work and added that consultation will continue with the judiciary and the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to implement more changes to mediation aimed at improving outcomes for children.

He also used his speech to praise the Ministry of Justice for setting up an external advisory group of experts to improve practice and called for family mediation to continue focussing on the best outcomes for any children involved.

Research showed that last year there was a significant drop in the number of mediation cases, following the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).

However, this year has seen reports from some charities showing that family mediation is slowly gaining popularity as an alternative to protracted court hearings.