SINGAPORE - A new centre to encourage people to settle their disputes outside of a lengthy and costly trial was launched by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the State Courts on Wednesday.
The State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution will provide alternative dispute resolution services such as mediation for civil claims, including motor accident and personal injury claims.
Magistrate's Complaints to initiate private prosecution of criminal offences, and applications under the Protection from Harassment Act will also be handled by the Centre.
Prior to the centre's launch, all civil claims would be referred to the Primary Dispute Resolution Centre, which provided alternative dispute resolution services. That centre was set up 20 years ago.
Magistrate's Complaints filed by individuals for minor criminal offences would be referred for mediation in the State Courts' Crime Registry, while pre-trial resolution for some criminal matters would be facilitated through Criminal Case Resolution Conferences.
But some disputes involve different aspects of the law and may even cut across the civil-criminal divide. A Magistrate's Complaint may be filed for assault while a civil action for monetary compensation may be simultaneously lodged in relation to the same dispute.
The new centre aims to provide an integrated approach to resolving conflicts, by consolidating the different alternative dispute resolution services which used to be offered in separate departments.
Besides adopting a holistic approach, the centre will also focus on enhancing the quality of alternative dispute resolution in Singapore.
While such services have been provided free of charge since the 1990s, fees will be charged at the new centre for higher value civil claims in the District Court, pending an amendment to the Rules of Court.
All Magistrate's court claims, motor accident claims, personal injury claims and Magistrate's Complaints will remain exempt from alternative dispute resolution fees.
Chief Justice Menon on Wednesday also launched a new book written by academics and practitioners on aspects of the mediation process.
Called Mediation in Singapore: A Practical Guide, the book covers areas such as legal foundations of mediation, and cultural and psychological aspects of mediation.