Mandatory (alternative) dispute resolution is lawful and should be encouraged

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The Civil Justice Council’s report on compulsory alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has been published today (Monday 12 July 2021).

In January 2021, the Master of the Rolls asked the Civil Justice Council to report on the legality and desirability of compulsory ADR.

The report concludes that mandatory (alternative) dispute resolution is compatible with Article 6 of the European Human Rights Convention and is, therefore, lawful.

Chair of the Judicial/ADR Liaison Committee and lead Judge for ADR, Lady Justice Asplin, said: “This report addresses questions which are central to the shape and design of dispute resolution in the twenty-first century.

“We have concluded that (A)DR can be made compulsory, subject to a number of factors. More work is necessary in order to determine the types of claim and the situations in which compulsory (A)DR would be appropriate and most effective for all concerned, both in the present system and in relation to online justice.

“Our conclusions place another useful and powerful tool in the box. They also provide the opportunity to initiate a change of culture in relation to dispute resolution which will benefit all concerned.”

In response to the report, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, chair of the Civil Justice Council and Head of Civil Justice, said: “I am grateful to Lady Justice Asplin and the working group for this excellent report. They conclude that it is possible, where a court process remains available, lawfully to mandate (alternative) dispute resolution.

“As I have said before, ADR should no longer be viewed as “alternative” but as an integral part of the dispute resolution process; that process should focus on “resolution” rather than “dispute”. This report opens the door to a significant shift towards earlier resolution.

“Meanwhile, it is exciting to see the HMCTS reform project delivering online justice. All kinds of dispute resolution interventions will be embedded within that online process”.