01 October 2018

Scottish justice Committee backs alternatives to court

Committee says alternatives are often better use of time and money and calls on lawyers to offer more information.

Scotland’s Justice Committee is backing increased use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and is calling for better and more consistent information about ADR to be given to solicitors’ clients, and the public more widely, before they enter into legal disputes.

Less confrontation

Although the report recognises that ADR may not be appropriate in all cases, particularly in domestic abuse situations, it suggests that in other circumstances, mandatory ADR information meetings should be piloted. The Committee is also suggesting that consideration should be given to extending legal aid to cover methods of ADR other than just mediation. Similarly, it is cautioning that ADR must be accessible, and not limited by a lack of services in certain areas. To counter this, MSPs are calling on the authorities to consider how they could fund and provide more consistent services throughout Scotland. Speaking as the report was published, Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said ‘the Scottish civil justice system could undergo a step change if we increase the use of less confrontational methods of resolving disputes’

Barriers

Ms Mitchell explained, ‘the Committee heard compelling evidence about the benefits of alternative dispute resolution methods that already exist. However, barriers of knowledge, provision and funding can all too often prevent them from being realised. The ideas set out in this report could provide a road map for the Scottish Government and legal sector to transform the delivery of civil justice in Scotland.’ She added, ‘while there will always be a place for formal court proceedings, there needs to be greater awareness that quicker, more cost effective and less traumatic alternatives are often available. The committee considers that there is a pressing need for further system-wide training and awareness raising for the judiciary and legal profession.’