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Calls for improvements to the process for small claims under £500 from The Civil Justice Council


Author: Mark Fitch

Legal Updates, Mediation

50% of all small claims are for a value of £500 or less

Civil claims of less than £500 should require mandatory mediation recommends The Civil Justice Council (CJC) in its recently released final report on the resolution of small claims. The CJC working party has suggested the introduction of a free telephone service should be brought in place to manage these lower value claims.

Small Claims

Data provided to The CJC working group has shown that in the period between March 2018 and April 2021 around half of all small claims issued were for a value of £500 or less. This has prompted a number of recommendations from the group with the intention to help improve the management and resolution of the more than one million small claims commenced in County Court each year. These recommendations include the development of a more proportionate process for lower value claims.

The Civil Justice Council’s recommendations for small claims

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee is asked to introduce a specific pre-action protocol for litigants with claims, excluding personal injury and housing repair, of less than £500.

Suggestions from The Civil Justice Council include:

  • Introduction of a free of charge mediation telephone service
  • Amendment of rules to allow the Court to determine cases by telephone/remote hearing
  • Production of short videos to improve the public’s understanding of the small claims process

The CJC report accepts for the first time that parties in principle can be compelled to mediate in the resolution of civil disputes. Chair of the Civil Justice Council and Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos commented:

“The effective handling of small claims in the County Court is essential to the efficient operation of the civil justice system.

As the reform programme progresses, it will become easier for litigants to begin claims online. It is, therefore, vital that data about what the system is being used for and how well it is working is collected and analysed to inform future improvements across the entire justice landscape.

The speedy and cost-effective resolution of civil claims is important for the UK economy. Delays cause economic drag and psychological distress to litigants that a streamlined system can minimise.

I hope the recommendations are given careful consideration and are implemented in full in due course.”

What is mediation?

Mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution in which a neutral third party communicates between the disputing parties to assist in their negotiations for settlement. It is a completely confidential procedure that can take place either face to face in a neutral location or online. The discussions will aim to seek a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties, usually at a fraction of the cost of taking the matter to trial.

There are various types of mediation. The type discussed above is known commonly as civil or commercial mediation. Examples of cases that can be mediated are property disputes, probate claims, professional negligence, consumer and business disputes.

Another type is mediation in the workplace, where the mediator is brought into the company to help resolve issues between employees, seeking to restore a harmonious working environment.

If you become involved in a legal dispute

If you would like to discuss using civil/commercial mediation to resolve a dispute, please contact Mark Fitch via markfitch@hatchbrenner.co.uk or call 01603 660811. For mediation in the workplace, please contact Dionne Dury via dionnedury@hatchbrenner.co.uk or call 01603 214229.

Mark Fitch Dispute Resolution and Mediation Specialist in Norwich

Mark Fitch - Partner and Mediator

Dionne Dury Employment Law

Dionne Dury - Employment Solicitor and Workplace Mediator

If you would like further information about any service, call us on 01603 214220