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Responses to call for evidence on dispute resolution published

The Ministry of Justice has published a summary of responses to its call for evidence on dispute resolution in England and Wales. The responses included many concerning the operation of current procedures in the family justice system, such as Mandatory Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs).

A total of 193 responses to the call for evidence were received and 78 attendees participated across the series of roundtable events. Of these, the majority of respondents were dispute resolution providers, representative bodies, legal practitioners, and academics. 

Respondents had mixed views on the current pre-court initiatives in place to encourage engagement with dispute resolution, particularly MIAMs. Many respondents felt that they were less effective than they might be due to the fact that there was no requirement for both parties to attend. Respondents expressed a wish for this to be amended and for attendance to be more robustly enforced by the courts, with reduced criteria available for exemption. However, despite respondents' reservations regarding the success of MIAMs in their current form, many also called for the expansion of the initiative across other sectors and jurisdictions and for it to include the provision of information of other forms of dispute resolution.

Many respondents from across the professions strongly emphasised that cases within the family jurisdiction which involve domestic abuse, sexual abuse, controlling behaviour, risk of harm, parental negligence or safeguarding concerns are more appropriate for resolution within a court setting.

Many respondents cited the need for a more holistic approach to solving parties' problems and disputes, which did not revolve solely around legal solutions. Particularly in family cases, it was viewed that the effectiveness of dispute resolution would be enhanced if provision was co-ordinated and integrated with other support services. To achieve this, respondents advocated for dispute resolution professionals to have access to training and information on a range of available support services and be able to refer parties to those where appropriate. Many respondents also recommended more mutual routes of referral between the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) and dispute resolution providers. The discrepancy between charges for SPIP depending on the source of referral was also noted as a key issue. However, a few respondents expressed concern about preserving the independence of a mediator if they are expected to refer parties to other support services, emphasising the potential tension between being allowed to signpost clients whilst upholding a non-advisory, independent approach.

The information gathered from the consultation exercise will inform the government's developing work on how to utilise dispute resolution processes to deliver swifter, more cost-effective and more consensual access to justice. Any future policy proposals will be subject to further public consultation.

For the summary of responses, click here.

7/5/22