39 Essex Chambers Court of Appeal Success allowing in Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council

The Court of Appeal has at last ruled that courts can order parties to engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution, including Mediation. Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (Churchill) brought before the Court of Appeal the first opportunity to challenge that part of the decision made in Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust (Halsey) which found that to order parties to mediate would breach Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. 

The Churchill judgement allows courts to fully integrate mediation, as well as other forms of dispute resolution into the court process. This enables courts, where appropriate, to order a stay of proceedings in order for mediation to take place. 

The judgement, handed down on the 29th November 2023, was given by Sir Geoffery Vos, Master of the Rolls, with agreement from both Lady Carr of Walton-On-The-Hill, Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales, and Lord Justice Birss. This is a significant case particularly because mediation has become an increasingly integral part of the civil justice system, with the recent introduction of automatic referral to mediation in small claims with a value of less than £10,000. This case was the first opportunity for Halsey to be challenged in the Court of Appeal.

The appeal in this case was brought before the Court of Appeal by Merthyr Tydfil CBC, with a number of parties intervening – including the Civil Mediation Council (“CMC”), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (“Ciarb”) and the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (“CEDR”) who were represented by Edwin Glasgow CBE KC and Kelly Stricklin-Coutinho, of 39 Essex Chambers, they were instructed by Stewarts – all of whom acted pro bono.

Edwin Glasgow CBE KC is a leading silk with extensive experience spanning over 55 years and has successfully mediated hundreds of disputes, both domestically and international. He is also a busy arbitrator, accepting appointments from all major institutions including ICC, LCIA, JAMS, SIAC, AFSA. Kelly Stricklin-Coutinho is a leading and exceptionally popular senior junior who is a CEDR accredited mediator and mediates in all areas of her practice.