May 19 2004.

A new pilot scheme to encourage more people to settle disputes out of court has been unveiled. Central London Civil Justice Centre will house the scheme which will involve automatically referring selected civil cases to mediation. Parties could be liable for costs if they still decline to mediate when their reasons to opt out of the scheme do not satisfy a judge.

Each week around 20 cases will be randomly selected at allocation stage for the mediation scheme. Both parties will be advised that their case has been referred to mediation and asked to submit a fee of £100 each and dates to avoid for their three-hour meeting with a mediator.

If one or both of the parties object to mediation they would need to give their reasons. The case will be referred to a District Judge who will decide whether mediation should take place or whether the case should proceed.

If mediation is unsuccessful or only partially successful the parties will be free to continue with court proceedings.