The courts of England and Wales, both civil and criminal, are experiencing a problematic backlog, in part caused by the global pandemic. In an attempt to free court time to consider serious or complex civil disputes, the Government will adopt major reforms to the civil justice system outlined in the recently published proposals.

The proposed reforms will compel disputing parties to take part in compulsory mediation for civil claims up to a value of £10,000. The mediation will be undertaken by a professional mediator provided by HM Courts and Tribunals Service ("HMCTS") and take the form of a free one-hour telephone session. Each party will speak separately to the mediator to establish the potential for a settlement without the need to appear before the courts. Should the parties be able to find a solution to their dispute then a settlement agreement will be drawn up and then made legally binding through the courts.

Vincenzo Senatore, senior partner in the London office, commented "many smaller disputes do not need to be heard before a court. If a satisfactory resolution can be found between the parties involved it may also help preserve the business relationship, relating to commercial disputes enabling the disputing parties to resume trading relations" Vincenzo further commented "this new proposal will help to reduce the present waiting time for civil justice and enable the high-value complex disputes to be dealt far more quickly and allow the resumption of trade without the shadow of a dispute hanging over commercial organisations. The new reforms are a welcome step for both the smaller potential litigants who will avoid the stress and costs of litigation as well as the organisations involved in complex matters who will now be in a shorter queue and be able to obtain speedier result through the courts"

The lawyers in Giambrone & Partners' dispute resolution and litigation department always suggest alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") for all disputes as the first course of action as this method of resolution is nearly always faster and less costly than a full court hearing. Also, the issue can be kept private between the parties rather than be heard by the general public, including journalists and business rivals in a court.

The Ministry of Justice expects that the new measures will divert up to 20,000 cases per year to be settled under the new proposals.

The new proposals have been well received by Federation of Small Businesses ("FSB") who are keen to support an accessible, affordable and fair system aimed at dispute resolution. Similarly, other small business associations across the country also welcome the new measures.

There are some exclusions to the new proposals, in cases involving personal injury, whilst the parties involved are at liberty to attempt to resolve an issue through ADR prior to litigation, such matters will not be subject to compulsory mediation. Similarly, if the dispute involves any aspect of housing disrepair, there will be no mandatory obligation to undertake mediation prior to litigation.

Vincenzo Senatore advises clients in a broad range of matters including national and international businesses, focussing on complex cross-order issues, assisting in contentious commercial issues involving share price disputes, breaches of contract and merger and acquisition disputes.

Vincenzo is well-regarded for his astute analysis of complex situations and his agile ability to navigate the intricacies involved in cross-border disputes. He recognises that alternative dispute resolution (conciliation, mediation and arbitration) are often more suited to the best interests of the client. Where litigation is undertaken, Vincenzo is focused and rigorous in his pursuit of a successful outcome for our clients.

Vincenzo also has extensive experience in cross-border criminal cases from matters involving breaches of the peace to assisting and advising on suspicious deaths abroad.

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