Consultation on Dispute Resolution

In October 2021, JUSTICE responded to the Ministry of Justice’s Consultation on Dispute Resolution in England and Wales.

The response drew upon our 2020 Solving Housing Disputes report, which set out proposals to create a more unified and accessible housing dispute system. It also addresses points raised by JUSTICE’s working party on Improving Access to Justice for Separating Families.

In summary, JUSTICE supports the spirit of the consultation in seeking to increase the use of DR processes across the civil justice system, where appropriate. However, in our response, JUSTICE stresses the importance of taking a nuanced approach to DR, depending on the context.

What makes DR appropriate is the extent to which it allows  parties  the  opportunity  to  holistically  investigate  the  underlying  causes  of  a dispute, de-escalate tensions between parties and achieve a sustainable outcome that is satisfactory. In order for this to be possible, parties must be able to access early legal advice and  support, which  will  require  the  provision  of legal aid.  Parties  should also benefit from a range of different types of DR (i.e. formal v informal methods).

When DR will be appropriate is a separate question that will depend on various factors including  the  personal  characteristics  of  parties,  taking  into  account  any  respective vulnerabilities,  the  extent  of  resources  available  to  either  party,  the  status  of  the relationship between parties and often the type of dispute that they are involved in. Deciding  when DR  will  be  appropriate also requires an understanding of  the reasons why parties are more or less likely to engage in it. This will enable lessons to be learnt and where necessary, improvements or adjustments made to both the DR process and the court  system. 

Appreciating  these  nuances  will  ensure  that  DR  moves from  the ‘alternative’ to the ‘mainstream’ and will allow it to achieve its ends of improving efficient and effective access to justice. However, in order for this to happen, JUSTICE considers that  reform  of  DR  must  be  accompanied  with  investment  in  early legal  support,  the improvement of public education about DR and the need for more continuous evaluation.

Read our full consultation.