At his annual press conference on 17 November 2015 the Lord Chief Justice was talking about the Court reforms and said that the reforms “will also enable us to provide in-court mediation in the process of deciding a case.” We can only assume that he was referring to early neutral evaluation as the rules have recently been changed to allow for this, which already takes place in the Family Courts. Or, did he really mean judges acting as mediators?
It is clear from his “Lord Williams of Mostyn Lecture” that the Lord Chief Justice considers that there is a need for a justice system centred upon judicial precedent and judgments so that the common law can evolve. He therefore considers that
“The task for both reform to the court system and the review by Sir Michael Briggs is to consider how best to structure reform within the principles I have outlined; to work out how far we can properly use Registrars and how far we can properly create a multi-door courthouse that both promotes appropriate dispute resolution whilst ensuring that the court’s adjudicatory function is enhanced rather than undermined.” There is no doubt that he would see mediation and ADR as playing a supportive role but that the Court system remains paramount.
He concludes by saying that “The present style, if it could be put that way, is for radical reform. Tomorrow’s justice system will, if funds are provided for reform, undoubtedly differ in many ways from the one I knew when I started life as a barrister. How it develops must be shaped by matters of principle. On this we cannot move. That is the bedrock. Those principles are: that the justice system is an indispensable pillar of our democracy; that each of our citizens must be provided with equality before the law secured by ready access to a fair process before the courts; that the achievement of substantive justice through adjudication conducted by an independent and impartial judiciary is the sine qua non of the rule of law and cannot be equated with or reduced to a mere service akin to that providing by mediation, arbitration or any other form of alternative dispute resolution process.”
It follows that he is not necessarily in favour of reducing the role of the judge or the Courts, even if the system changes under the reform process to increase access to ADR.