Law Society calls for public interest amendments to Government’s Mediation Bill

The Law Society has recommended a number of important changes to the Mediation Bill 2017.

  • Voluntary participation needs to be enshrined in the Bill.
  • More sensitive treatment of family law issues are required – cases of family breakdown, domestic violence require some exemptions.
  • Reputation and high standards of many experienced mediators risked through lukewarm oversight provisions.

The Law Society of Ireland today outlined its concerns that the Government’s Mediation Bill 2017 may compromise the principle of confidentiality and requires strengthening of regulation and standards. 

In its recent submission to the Department of Justice and Equality, the Law Society also reinforces the importance of voluntariness in the process, and highlights the public interest requirement for appropriate standards and regulation in the area of mediation.

“We welcome the intent of the Government’s Mediation Bill and believe that with further amendments it has the potential to save significant costs and unclog our courts system,” said Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society of Ireland. 

“However the Bill as drafted, applies to proceedings already issued, and leaves those who engage in non-court dispute resolution outside the Bill.”

Family Law proceedings

The Law Society’s submission highlights the sensitive nature of family law issues, drawing a distinction from other areas of civil disputes.

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

“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”.

Regulation and standards

“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.”

The Law Society of Ireland maintains a ‘Find a Mediator’ facility on its website for the public and legal professionals to access.

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