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Minister warns that legal aid could be conditional on mediation

Date:7 OCT 2010

MoJMore people should consider mediation rather than going to court to sort out family disputes, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has told radio listeners.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Minister said: 'Too often people in family breakdowns are using court as a first answer when they shouldn't.

"Often it's dealing with contact with children or intimate personal relationships that really shouldn't be going before the courts. We are determined to look at this."

There were nearly 45,000 child custody cases in England and Wales last year, costing the legal aid system £143m.

The minister said that he didn't think it is right that the taxpayer has to "foot the bill" for the courts process in non-violent cases because parents won't mediate.

Mr Djanogly wants to see family law practitioners improve their knowledge of mediation so that they can help couples be aware and to consider this option.

"Unfortunately, though, too few people are taking it up," he said.

"There isn't enough knowledge within the courts system and, I have to say, with lawyers as to the benefits of mediation."

The final set of proposals of the Family Justice Review will be published as an interim report in spring 2011. These proposals will then be subject to public consultation, which will lead to a final report, with proposals for legislation, in autumn 2011.