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Volume 463: debated on Monday 23 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice on how many occasions the Legal Services Commission used sanctions against solicitors for not providing advice to clients on mediation in family disputes in each of the last three years. (150037)

None. Under the Law Society's Family Law Protocol, family solicitors are required to advise clients on the benefits of mediation where it is appropriate for the client. Legally aided clients are required to consider mediation before proceedings are issued.

There are no specific contract sanctions available at present. The discussions that the solicitor has with the client on the potential use of mediation are evidenced by the completion of a ‘Suitability of Mediation’ form. If this form is not completed and submitted when the solicitor applies for funding to issue proceedings, the application will be rejected and not processed until the solicitor has completed the form and resubmitted the application for funding.

The LSC will be monitoring the number of referrals made by individual firms to mediation. An improved monitoring system, to be implemented in October 2007, will extract information from LSC databases on the reasons used by individual firms for exemption from mediation. Where it is shown that solicitors' firms do not make appropriate and timely referrals, the LSC Relationship Manager will have discussions with the firm about this. Funding to continue with proceedings will be refused until the solicitor has demonstrated that mediation has been assessed as not appropriate, or has been attempted and broken down.