Mediation cuts court pressure

MEDIATORS and conciliators are reducing the pressure on WA’s court system, according to Lawyers Engaged in Alternative Dispute Resolution.

LEADR Law Week committee convenor Rick Cullen said lawyers practising mediation and conciliation were successful in resolving between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of disputes out of court.

“Mediation is having a significant and tangible impact on the administration of justice in this state by helping to reduce the number of cases that would otherwise go to a hearing,” Mr Cullen said.

The Law Reform Commission has estimated that, in the civil jurisdiction of the District Court, at least 95 per cent of all matters are resolved or discontinued prior to the completion of a trial.

Approximately 50 per cent of matters are resolved without the assistance of a registrar trained in alternative dispute resolution, while a further 30 per cent are resolved with that assistance.

The Supreme Court introduced mediation in 1993 to help reduce the backlog of matters on the civil list awaiting trial.

Since then the settlement rate of matters that have been mediated has been more than 80 per cent.

But these statistics do not take into account mediations conducted by private mediators that stop cases coming to court or settle them once they are in court.

Family, child and community mediators conduct most private mediations in WA. They are members of the Citizens’ Advice or Community Mediation/Justice Centres often located in the suburbs or country areas.

LEADR WA chair Greg Steinepreis said lawyers comprised a large proportion of mediators who helped solve commercial disputes outside the court system.

Their success rates are also in the region of 80 per cent.

“The savings in time, costs and ugliness of a court battle as a result of a relatively short mediation makes it an attractive option to try,” Mr Steinepreis said.

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