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Jun 14, 2017

The Mediation Bill must be amended “in the public interest” to uphold the principle of confidentiality and strengthen regulation and standards, the Law Society of Ireland has said.

The government bill aims to promote mediation as a supplement to court proceedings, which mediation advocates say would divert civil and commercial disputes away from the courts, saving time and money.

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The Law Society said its recent submission to the Department of Justice on the bill reinforces the importance of voluntariness in the process and highlights the need for appropriate standards and regulation in the area of mediation.

Director General of the Law Society, Ken Murphy said: “We welcome the intent of [the bill] and believe that with further amendments it has the potential to save significant costs and unclog our courts system. However the bill as drafted, applies to proceedings already issued, and leaves those who engage in non-court dispute resolution outside the bill.”

In particular, Mr Murphy called for the bill to draw a distinction between family law and other areas of civil disputes.

He said: “The Bill must accommodate all forms of civil disputes, both in respect of confidentiality and in relation to the agreement to mediate.

“The reality is that the existing family law regime already compels mediation prior to proceedings – requiring it a second time is likely to be counterproductive. For that reason there should be an explicit exemption for family law and domestic violence proceedings from the scope of the definition of ‘civil proceedings’.

“Mediation is most successful when all parties enter into it voluntarily, have confidence in the expertise and experience of their mediator, and the process is protected by confidentiality. When you have matters involving the future of children, family breakdown and other personal disputes, this privilege is crucial.”

Mr Murphy added: “We also advocate for a more transparent registration of those wishing to practice as a mediator in Ireland. It is in the public interest to have a professional, ethical and qualified mediator – as these people will be involved in some of the most personal affairs.

“We believe that the bill should outline minimum standards, with ongoing educational requirements to ensure high ethical and professional industry standards.

“Many current mediators already work within regulated professions and comply with codes of conduct and professional standards.”

Source: Irish Legal News