Mediation starts at their lowest since LASPO introduction
Since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO Act) anyone who wishes to submit a court application in family cases is required to show the court that they have explored all other possible options of resolution before making their application. The idea was to encourage more people to use mediation as a way of resolving issues rather than tie up the court’s time and limited resources.
Sadly though the update of mediation starts has continued to fall. The Ministry of Justice has revealed in the latest quarterly statistics for legal aid expenditure that mediation starts between October and December 2017 were down by 15% when compared to the same period in 2016 and currently stands at around 1,500, which is the lowest quarterly number of starts since the implementation of the LASPO Act. Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) during the period were also down by 12 per cent compared to the previous year and currently stand at around a third of pre-LASPO levels.
The statistics also showed that legal aid expenditure on Family Law issues between October and December 2017 amounted to £139 million, up 11 per cent on the same period in 2016. There were 31,000 closed cases (up 4 per cent on the previous year). Between October and December 2017 there were 22,000 Family Public Law legally aided cases (up 11 per cent on the previous year) for which expenditure was £115m (up 13 per cent). There were 9,000 Family Private Law legally aided cases (down 8 per cent) for which expenditure was £24m (about the same as the previous year). There were 4,000 Mediation and MIAMs cases (down 13 per cent) for which expenditure was £1m (down 12 per cent).
It is clear that the Government’s desire to keep people out of the court system by encouraging mediation has not worked in the way that they had hoped. As solicitors and members of Resolution, we will always look to try and resolve disputes by any means before resorting to court action, which should only ever be seen as a last resort.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.