Options to avoid court ‘sought by many’
September 25, 2010
CAROL COULTER Legal Affairs Editor
PEOPLE INVOLVED in family law disputes would have to attend an information session on mediation before resorting to court proceedings, under proposals to be made by the Law Reform Commission.
Former Supreme Court judge Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, the president of the commission, said yesterday this was one of the proposals to be made in its forthcoming report on alternative dispute resolution.
She told an international conference of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in Dublin yesterday that the commission expected to publish its report within the next few months. It published a consultation paper on the subject in July 2008 and asked for submissions.
Due to the enormous and unprecedented number of submissions, the commission had been unable to produce its final report and draft Bill within the usual time-frame of a year, she said.
She said the number of submissions reflected the public interest in alternative dispute resolution generally, and a public demand for an alternative to the expensive and lengthy route of litigation.
While the commission did not give a detailed account of its proposals in advance of the publication of reports, she said she could indicate the areas that would be considered. These included providing in the draft Bill a precise definition of the terms “mediation” and “conciliation”, around which there had been much confusion.
There would also be recommendations in the sensitive area of confidentiality and privilege, though these would be limited where there was a legal obligation to disclose certain information.
The report would also deal with the certification and professional qualifications of mediators, though she warned that the professionalisation of any service inevitably brought more costs.
Ms Justice Fidelma Macken of the Supreme Court said the area of intellectual property was a growing one for alternative dispute resolution, and there, both lawyers and non-lawyers, like patent specialists, could be involved. Dr Axel Reeg from Germany spoke of arbitration in Europe and said there was a difference between how it worked in the civil and common law systems. In the civil system the judge or arbitrator did not just listen, but also directed.
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