The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D. announced today that he had secured Government approval for the general scheme of a Mediation Bill which is published today.
The Minister said "The Mediation Bill will give effect to the undertaking in the Programme of the Government for National Recovery (2011 – 2016) to encourage and facilitate the use of mediation to resolve civil, commercial and family disputes."
The Minister added "The general objective 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. I am anxious to ensure that individuals and companies engaged in a dispute regard resolution of their dispute through mediation as preferable to court litigation."
The General Scheme builds on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in their ‘Report on Alternative Dispute Resolution – Mediation and Conciliation’.
The Minister said that he wanted to highlight the following elements in the proposed Bill:
· the imposition of a statutory requirement on solicitors and barristers to inform their clients about the possibility of using mediation as an alternative means of resolving disputes prior to commencing court proceedings;
· a requirement that all communications between parties as they try to resolve a dispute using mediation shall be confidential;
· it will remain for the parties themselves to decide whether to engage in mediation and, indeed, to decide on the terms of any agreement arising from the mediation;
· the provision of a statutory basis for the courts to invite parties to consider the mediation option and to adjourn court proceedings for the duration of the process.
The Minister said that he intended forwarding the draft Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality for their consideration. Any views which the Committee submitted would be taken into consideration prior to finalisation of the Bill for publication.
The Minister is asking the Committee to revert to him no later than the 1 June next.
The Minister said that he wanted to make it clear that "this Bill is not intended to replace existing systems for resolving disputes outside of the courts system such as those operated by the Employment Appeals Tribunal and Labour Court in the employment field and the Residential Tenancies Board in relation to landlord and tenant disputes. Instead, the Bill seeks to integrate mediation into the civil justice system as a mainstream alternative to court proceedings. "
The general scheme of the Mediation Bill is available on the Department of Justice and Equality website: www.justice.ie
1 March, 2012
The Programme of the Government for National Recovery (2011 – 2016) contains the following commitment:
"We will encourage and facilitate use of mediation to resolve commercial, civil and family disputes in order to speed up resolution of disputes, reduce legal costs and ameliorate the stress of contested court proceedings."
The proposed Bill will:
· introduce an obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise parties to disputes to consider utilising mediation as a means of resolving them and, where court proceedings are launched, requires parties to proceedings to confirm to the court that they have been so advised and have considered using mediation as a means of resolving the dispute;
· provide that a court may, on its own initiative or on the initiative of the parties, and following the commencement of proceedings, invite the parties to consider mediation as a means of resolving the dispute;
· provide for the suspension of court proceedings in such cases to facilitate the mediation process;
· contain general principles for the conduct of mediation by qualified mediators, including an obligation on mediators to provide information on their training and experience to parties to the mediation;
· provide that communications between parties during mediation shall be confidential;
· provide that the parties to the mediation determine among themselves the enforceability of any agreement reached during the mediation process;
· provide that the costs of mediation must be reasonable and proportionate and not linked to the outcome of the process;
· make specific provision for the involvement of children in mediation in family law disputes;
· provide for the introduction of codes of practice for the conduct of mediation by qualified mediators.